In the year or so since The Walking Dead unleashed its skull-crushing Season 7 debut on the world, the AMC drama saw as much viewer fatigue as it ever has. And if cursory web searches weren't enough to prove it, the dropping numbers for Season 8's callback-friendly premiere would do it. There's another big indicator, too, though it's one that AMC might actually like: online piracy for the episode was down a whopping 42% as compared to last year's Negan-filled premiere.
As most fans are aware, The Walking Dead has been one of TV's most pirated series of all time. The Season 7 opener "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be" was illegally downloaded 1,330,718 times in the 24 hours following the episode's initial airing. According to the piracy-tracking company Tecxipio, Season 8's "Mercy" was pirated 774,685 times, which marks a sharp decrease in unlawful activity for the opening of the All Out War storyline.
The U.S. wasn't even the country on top of the lineup, either, as Brazil was home to the most pirated downloads for The Walking Dead's Season 8 premiere. (The Brazilian provider Vivo was the most-used ISP.) The U.K., France and Russia rounded out the top five download-heavy countries.
Those stats essentially mirror the downward slope of The Walking Dead's legal audience views. It wasn't expected for "Mercy" to match last year's debut, considering this year didn't have the massive Negan-victim cliffhanger for fans to go rabid over, but Season 8 started off with its lowest demo ratings (5.0) and overall viewership (11.44 million) since Seasons 2 and 3, respectively.
Of course, the pirated download stats above only tell part of the story, and it's hard to know what the whole story is at this point. For one, AMC and Fox Entertainment Group's quickened global release pattern and anti-piracy techniques have helped to trim the rampant illegality, so that could be why the numbers are that much lower. As well, Tecxipio doesn't track the myriad ways that people can get videos these days, so there are likely lots of other people whose piracy went unnoticed by this report.
That said, Tecxipio recently put out a report tracking annual Walking Dead piracy since Season 1, and the current numbers in 2017 (110.3 million) are lower than any year other than 2012 (67.9 million), when there were only six episodes of The Walking Dead airing. Things peaked in 2015 with 163 million, and then fell to 153.2 million in 2016. There are obviously two more months to see how things will go for 2017 as a whole.
The Walking Dead airs legally on Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. Be sure to check out our thoughts on that new character, as well as how the show is setting up Rick's eventual exit, and then head to our fall premiere schedule to see all the other new and returning shows shambling on TV soon.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.