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The February 17 episode had 4.5 million viewers. The show has never had numbers that low, not even in Season 1. The episode's 1.7 rating in the 18-49 demo was also a series low, and down 15% from the midseason return, Deadline noted.
The Walking Dead's previous series low rating came on November 18, 2018 with the Season 9 episode "Stradivarius," which earned a 1.8 rating. That episode earned 4.79 milion viewers, which isn't great but still topped a couple of Season 1 episodes.
The NBA All-Star Game dominated Sunday, February 17 with 5.76 million viewers and a 2.4 rating. This coming weekend's Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 11, "Bounty," will be competing against the 2019 Oscars. Since award shows are also losing viewers and ratings, it's possible The Walking Dead won't suffer too much opposite the Academy Awards. But it's clear The Walking Dead is no longer the must-see TV it was just a few seasons ago.
Remember the Season 5 premiere, "No Sanctuary"? It earned a record 17.2 million viewers and an 8.7 rating. It seemed like The Walking Dead would never stop climbing -- until it did, thanks to the Season 7 premiere. That premiere episode, "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be," earned 17 million viewers and an 8.4 rating. But plenty of people who threatened to stop watching the show after the gruesome deaths of Glenn and Abraham meant what they said, and the show has been bleeding viewers ever since.
This latest viewer/ratings drop shows The Walking Dead is capable of sliding even further down the charts. As usual, we can say The Walking Dead is still regularly the top show on Sunday nights, but the viewing world and TWD have both changed and they seem to be moving in opposite directions. The show isn't even doing gangbusters business on DVR -- the February 10 episode only added 1.95 million viewers and 0.8 in the 18-49 demo. It's not bad, per se, but you have to imagine the cost of airing ads during The Walking Dead has gone down substantially in the past couple of years, losing money for the network.
Also, AMC has chosen this moment to expand the franchise even beyond The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead (which now stars a couple of TWD expats.) Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes is getting his own movies, that will reportedly include Danai Gurira's Michonne once she leaves The Walking Dead next year. And there's reportedly more coming in the universe overseen by Scott M. Gimple, the showrunner who presided over The Walking Dead's highest highs and set up the current lowest lows with the recent exits of Carl Grimes, Rick Grimes, and Maggie Greene Rhee.
The Walking Dead no longer resembles the show it was, and viewers have noticed. That said, Alpha and her molasses-thick Southern accent just joined Season 9 as the leader of The Whisperers and there are some potentially big moments ahead if they follow the comic book. There are still millions of people watching The Walking Dead after nine seasons, which is impressive, and we know Season 10 is to come.
The Walking Dead Season 9 airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC, as one of the many shows now airing during midseason 2019.