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Seven seasons in, The Walking Dead has expanded its universe to show more interesting regions and areas. Some fun new characters have been introduced, and our heroes have been spread thin and forced to make compromises they might not normally. However, not everyone is over the cliffhanger heard round the world at the end of Season 6. In fact, fewer viewers than ever are turning in to the AMC drama live, and the numbers didn't just start dropping yesterday. While The Walking Dead is still crushing nearly everything else on cable, the news is not the best for the show's long-term future on the network.
This week the show did 10.4 million total viewers and a 4.9 rating in the 18-49 demographic. For comparison, a lot of shows struggle to get over the 1.0 mark in the advertising demographic, but that's clearly not a problem that TWD has, as it skews younger, like Empire or other shows of that ilk. Last week the series did around 11 million total viewers, and this week the numbers dropped more, at least in Live+Same day viewership, which counts any people who watched the show this past Sunday night. Those numbers are the most valuable to advertisers, and they help to account for a good chunk of the money the show is able to make.
Again what's worrying about The Walking Dead's latest numbers is not that people are no longer watching the series. It's still clearly popular, even wildly so. However, what is troubling is that the overall trajectory of the series seems to be inching downward. We can talk about how the holiday weekend may have had an affect on the numbers this week, or that the fact that a Tara-centric episode may not have been everyone's favorite cup of tea, but it still needs to be pointed out that Episode 6 was a 4-year low for the series and the first time that The Walking Dead has done under a 5.0 rating since Season 3, per TV By the Numbers.
This week was a big week for television. Over on the CW, we saw the network finally air the highly touted 4-way crossover, which did really well in the ratings. We saw ratings increase across a lot of the major networks, as shows are preparing for either finales or midseason finales over the next couple of weeks. Even the holiday last weekend didn't damper things for a lot of shows, as Christmas of Many Colors just dominated on NBC. It's too bad The Walking Dead didn't really get a huge piece of that pie, although again it should be pointed out that a 4.9 rating is actually incredible. The Walking Dead is still dominating most of the competition; it's just not beating itself anymore.
I've long said that The Walking Dead could probably accomplish the same thing in 13 episodes that in does now in 16, but I hardly begrudge it the extra episodes if people are still going to tune in. Eventually though, that may be a tactic the network wants to consider if they want to keep people enticed over the long haul. I still think that Season 6 was one of my favorite Walking Dead seasons ever, and we haven't gotten so far away from that at this point. Regardless, it looks like we may have already reached peak popularity for The Walking Dead. That certainly means the series will have to get innovative at some point and with the midseason finale coming up, hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.
New episodes of The Walking Dead air Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET. To find out what else is coming up, check out our midseason TV premiere schedule.