The Walking Dead was once a juggernaut of primetime TV, setting and breaking ratings records on a regular basis. In recent years, however, interest in the zombie apocalypse has clearly waned, and the ratings trend for The Walking Dead has been distinctly downward. Now, the second episode of Season 9 has seen the ratings hit a new low. The ratings for "The Bridge" took The Walking Dead to a series low.
"The Bridge" episode of The Walking Dead scored a disappointing 2.0 rating in the key 18-49 age demographic on October 14. While a 2.0 rating is actually something plenty of other Sunday shows would undoubtedly love, it marks the lowest rating in that all-important demographic in the history of the series. In fact, it drops well below the previous holder of the series low ranking. The fourth episode of Season 1, called "Vatos," had previously been the lowest-rated with a total of 2.4 in the key demo.
The series low comes a week after The Walking Dead's Season 9 premiere flirted with breaking its record for lowest demo ratings. The premiere only earned a 2.5 in the 18-49 demographic, which was a shock given that it was a super-sized episode touted as one of the last episodes starring Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. 6.08 million people tuned in to the premiere, and that is a significantly larger number than the 5 million who tuned in for the second episode of the season, according to Deadline.
Given that AMC has plans for The Walking Dead to last quite a bit longer than Season 9 and even already has plans for departing cast members Lauren Cohan and Andrew Lincoln (despite Rick's probable death) beyond Season 9, the ratings may be a significant cause for worry. That said, delayed viewing is all the rage nowadays, and the ratings that are series low in Live+Same day calculations may get a healthy bump once delayed viewership can be taken into account in a couple of days.
It's also worth noting that The Walking Dead aired at the same time as a high-stakes MLB playoff game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros on TBS, which scored a 1.5 rating in the 18-49 demographic and won 5.6 million viewers. A baseball game really isn't something that can be fully enjoyed with delayed viewing, so it's possible that some Walking Dead fans prioritized baseball over the zombie apocalypse on October 14.
All things considered, it should definitely be interesting to see what happens with the ratings moving forward. I wouldn't be surprised if Rick's final episode -- which will likely be promoted as such by AMC, if its handling of his upcoming departure in trailers is any indication -- scores some big numbers from fans at least checking back in to see how the consummate survivor ends his journey. Beyond that... well, we'll have to wait and see.
A big question might be what drove viewers away. Most shows -- with the rare exception like Game of Thrones -- do lose viewers on a regular basis as they get older, but not necessarily so drastically so relatively quickly. Did news of the time jump drive fans away? Or did the Negan saga exhaust viewers to the point of quitting the show? Is The Walking Dead simply too bleak for viewers after the better part of a decade? Are the upcoming departures a factor?