After a late-summer spinoff series, a Season 6 premiere that brought more zombies than ever upon our merry group of survivors, and a second episode that saw bad guys infiltrate Alexandria, The Walking Dead hardly seems to be slowing down. The franchise seems to be getting bigger and more ambitious than ever before. It therefore comes as something of a surprise that the ratings for the sixth season thus far have been disappointing to AMC. The Walking Dead has a ratings problem, and it has led to a drop in stock for shares of the company.
Going by the numbers alone for the first two episodes of the sixth season, it’s difficult to understand why AMC is so nervous. The premiere brought in 14.6 million total viewers and achieved a healthy chunk of the valuable 18–49 demographic with 9.4 million. The second episode was down from the premiere, with 12.2 million viewers overall and 7.8 million in the 18–49 demographic. Ratings drops are not surprising for episodes that are not premieres or finales, so the respective 16% and 17% drops would not normally be cause for great alarm. Numbers like these for most programs would be a cause for celebration.
The problem comes from the fact that the ratings for this season are not quite as impressive as those that were put up during past seasons, and it has stockholders nervous. In fact, after last week's episode aired to lower-than-usual numbers, AMC's stock dropped. And Deadline reports that AMC closed down 6.3% again this week.
Here's the thing: The Walking Dead’s ratings for the first episode of Season 6 show that the overall audience increased by 33% and the viewers in the target demographic grew by 36% percent after the numbers for DVR were taken into account. Regardless, that's not good for advertisers, whose revenue from buying commercial time from AMC for The Walking Dead is not positively affected by DVR viewing.
It must be taken into account, however, that live viewership could increase back to its previously impressive numbers once the network competition dies down. The second episode was up against two major sporting events. Sunday Night Football saw a matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots that already had football fans tense after the NFL “DeflateGate” scandal between the two teams, and the MLB World Series race between the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs snagged a decent chunk of the viewers during The Walking Dead’s slot. As football and baseball are events that really need to be watched live in a way that shows about zombies are not, it’s entirely possible that the ratings for The Walking Dead will shoot back up once baseball season ends and less highly-anticipated football games are the Sunday night competition.
The comparatively low numbers that have stockholders nervous may well be just a temporary fluke of scheduling rather than a trend for the rest of the season, but until those numbers improve or stabilize, there's a ratings problems and pessimists will continue to think it's the first mark of a longterm problem for AMC.
The Walking Dead airs on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.