Why The Walking Dead's Premiere Ratings Aren't Really That Bad

When The Walking Dead Season 8 made its explosive debut, there weren't any gigantic moments on par with Negan's double murder from Season 7's opener. And audiences seemed to be aware of that, since the early viewership and ratings stats showed that "Mercy" was the least watched premiere in four years. But it appears that some potential viewers might have just been waiting to see if there was enough hubbub to keep going, as The Walking Dead's premiere saw big gains in Live+3 delayed viewing that pushed the episode up as the #1 rated telecast of the fall season so far.

To be sure, we fully expected The Walking Dead to spend those next few days regaining some of those lost viewers from the Sunday night airing, and now that the numbers have been tallied, the "Mercy" audience jumped up from 11.44 million people to 15.04 million people. With an additional 3.5 million people tuning in to watch over the next three days, The Walking Dead gained 31% of its initial viewership, which is up there with some of the highest Live+3 viewer gains of any show on TV. (In the same week, only ABC's medical drama The Good Doctor had a higher turnout with 5.49 million viewers watching after the fact.)

While shows like the aforementioned Good Doctor, The Big Bang Theory and others actually still netted bigger audiences than The Walking Dead premiere, AMC can be happiest about the upped ratings for the key 18-49 demographic. The zombie drama's already massive 5.0 demo rating skyrocketed to a 6.8, with 8.8 million viewers falling into that all-important age bracket, according to TVByTheNumbers. After the Live+3 stats were tallied across the TV-scape, only Sunday Night Football came close with its 6.6 demo rating, while This Is Us and The Good Doctor, for example, capped off at a 4.5 and a 3.6 rating, respectively. Plus, those were the only two shows that came closest to equaling The Walking Dead's delayed viewing gains, as both added another 1.6 rating to the previous totals.

Those updated numbers had to be reaffirming for AMC execs and show producers, who have been touting Season 8 as one of the series' most exciting batches of episodes yet. And the second episode, "The Damned," had its own share of huge moments that hopefully found their way to a comparable number of hyped-up viewers.

Introducing the All Out War between Rick's group and Negan's Saviors, Season 8's premiere also saw a pretty significant dip in pirated downloads in the 24 hours after it aired. It wasn't clear if that droop was a sign of dwindling interest in the show or a harder focus on keeping piracy down all around, but less illegal downloads possibly equals more legal views for the network, so it was a win no matter what the reasoning.

We're interested to see if The Walking Dead's second episode (and future death-infused installments) will keep the audience totals soaring above the rest of the competition. Keep tuning in every Sunday night on AMC at 9:00 p.m. to see the next steps in Rick's multiple timelines, and head to our fall TV premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows might come close to toppling the zombie drama in the near future.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

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.