Ratings for The Walking Dead slipped throughout season seven (for many reasons), but the Negan-bashing premiere, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,” still pulled in an impressive 17 million viewers. It was the second most-watched episode of the entire series, in fact, falling slightly behind the season five premiere, “No Sanctuary.” There aren’t many givens in our fractured TV world right now (The Good Doctor is more popular than The Big Bang Theory?), but monster numbers for The Walking Dead is one of them.
Or maybe it was.
Sunday’s episode, “Mercy,” was The Walking Dead‘s lowest-rated premiere since season three, with 11.4 million total viewers and a 5.0 rating in the key adults 18-49 demographic. According to Variety, “The season three premiere, which aired in 2012, averaged a 5.8 and 10.86 million viewers by comparison. This also means that the season eight premiere is the third-lowest in series history, ahead of only season two and season one… The season seven premiere drew an 8.4 and 17.03 million, meaning season eight was down approximately 40 percent in the demo and 33 percent in total viewers.”
Of course, the season seven premiere was the resolution to a months-long cliffhanger, so intrigue was high, but a 40 percent drop in viewership is steep. The Walking Dead is still a massive hit, and it’s working hard to win back viewers with an “All Out War,” but AMC might be starting to worry what the ratings will look like by the time we catch up with Future Rick.