Season 7 of The Walking Dead blew the end of October open with the second-biggest audience that has ever tuned into the show for a Sunday night airing. Yet, less than a month later, the zombie drama just brought in its lowest ratings since its third season. This is all a little more serious than something that can be simply dismissed as an unfortunate fluke, as the show faces the most noteworthy ratings drop of its entire cable run.
Let's start with the episode itself. After the final numbers were in, Sunday night's "Go Getters" had right around 11 million total viewers on the night, according to TV by the Numbers, which is the smallest same-night audience that The Walking Dead has seen since Season 3's penultimate installment "This Sorrowful Life." But back then, "This Sorrowful Life" brought in 10.99 million viewers, which put the episode right in the middle of the ranks for that season, and easily beat everything in Season 2. The show was still building its core audience, and those were really good numbers for the most part.
Here in Season 7, however, they're awful. The premiere, which answered the highly discussed Season 6 cliffhanger, was seen by 17.03 million viewers, so that means a little over 6 million people fell out of regular viewing by the time "Go Getters" hit. At no point during The Walking Dead's run so far has there been a ratings disparity of that size within a single season. It's perhaps a sign that audiences aren't as happy with Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan as readers were with the comic series' villain, or that they're growing weary of how the growing number of supporting characters is limiting the time spent with the leads.
As well, The Walking Dead's ratings drop this season has been dependable on a week-to-week basis, with the numbers first taking a 4.5 million-viewer dip from the premiere to the second episode, and then going down in smaller increments since. Once again, this is a big first for the drama, and not the kind that AMC wants to talk about. At no other point during The Walking Dead's run has it faced a downfall in viewers for four consecutive episodes, and we're still not sure if this is going to be the end of it, since there are still three more episodes left before winter break.
No one is carrying around doomsday sandwich boards or anything, as The Walking Dead's worst ratings are still far better than many other primetime series, especially on cable. Plus, these are just the Live+Same Night ratings, and The Walking Dead is known to be quite popular on the DVR front. Still, it was only very recently that, for the first time in several years, the show fell to second place in the Sunday night ratings game for scripted series. That's an awful lot of smoke for there to be no fires to worry about. It might just be a trick the Saviors are playing on us, though.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC, and everyone at the network thinks you're going to want to tune into the next one, and the ones after that, so that bad things stop happening. To see what else is hitting the small screen in the future, check out our fall TV schedule and our midseason premiere schedule.