There has been much talk since the beginning of Season 6 of The Walking Dead regarding a perceived dip in ratings for the first two episodes. The season opener was originally thought to have been disappointing before the Live+3 numbers, the way delayed viewership via DVR and online is measured, revealed that over 20 million had tuned in. Any speculation of sagging ratings were quelled with TWD’s most recent episode as it turned in a blockbuster rating on the strength of the teased death of one of the show’s most beloved characters. Light spoilers below.
Episode 3 of this season for The Walking Dead pulled in 13.1 million viewers for a 6.8 rating in the key 18-49 demo (8.5 million adults). The number of overall viewers is expected to be far higher once the Live+3 numbers are factored in. According to Deadline, that marks an 8% uptick in viewership over the previous week’s episode and maintains solid tracking when compared to the ratings from last season's Episode 3.
This week’s episode made headlines all across the interwebs with the implied death of one of the show’s most long-lasting characters. While rumors abound whether the death is a tease or legit - previous shocking offings of beloved cast regulars would suggest the death is real - the move was successful in injecting a heavy dose of intrigue and surprise back into the show. News of the character’s death went viral, which will likely help swell those Live+3 numbers as the potentially series-changing event could lure back viewers that had strayed in recent weeks.
One solid piece of evidence that the move generated much interest is the fact that The Walking Dead’s post show recap talk show Talking Dead, hosted by @midnight host and comedian Chris Hardwick, experienced a surge in viewership as well, reining in 6.2 million total viewers, with almost two-thirds of that being in the show’s target demographic of 18-49-year-olds. That marks a 44% overall gain, with a 49% gain in that target demo, making it the most-watched episode of the season.
The Walking Dead debuted on AMC in 2010 and instantly became a ratings smash for the cable network. The Walking Dead, based on the wildly popular comic book series by Robert Kirkman, has set television ratings records in its six-season run, seemingly topping itself every year and becoming one of the highest-rated cable series of all time. While the show continues to easily best most other shows on television with the obvious exception of weekly nationally televised NFL games, a small dip in viewership caused either by a sag or stagnation in the show’s storyline or simply viewer fatigue, has caused many people to come out of the woodwork calling out the show’s decline.
Whether or not the series can maintain the momentum coming out of this episode or not remains to be seen, and will reveal whether the death was an integral turning point in the show’s extended plot, or merely a desperate ratings ploy. Either way, it appears to have worked.