The Walking Dead closes its epic, record-setting run on AMC on Sunday. The present’s prolonged universe will reside on, however the flagship collection — one of many largest in cable historical past — will wrap up at 10:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
Going by current Nielsen information, about 1.4 million folks — save a doable series-ending bump in viewership — will tune into AMC Sunday to look at the final episode. That’s a far — like, a extremely far — cry from the place the present was at its peak, as The Walking Dead’s conventional scores numbers have fallen off steeply in its latter years. Some of that’s pure erosion — few exhibits which were on so long as TWD preserve their viewers — and a few has to do with the truth that thousands and thousands of TV properties have dumped their cable subscriptions within the years because the present peaked.
Still, The Walking Dead was a scores phenomenon that few cable collection have ever equaled, and because the present bows out, it’s value trying again.
When The Walking Dead premiered on Oct. 31, 2010, AMC had established itself as a vacation spot for buzzed-about authentic collection. For all of the vital and awards acclaim its predecessors Mad Men and Breaking Bad had racked up within the three earlier years, nonetheless, they had been nonetheless fairly small exhibits in viewers phrases. Season 4 of Mad Men, which concluded two weeks earlier than The Walking Dead premiered, averaged about 2.3 million viewers, whereas three seasons in, Breaking Bad had but to interrupt 2 million viewers for any episode.
The Walking Dead premiered to five.35 million viewers, making it by far the most important collection debut AMC had seen to that time and one of many largest in cable historical past. The six-episode first season was pretty regular all through its run, averaging 5.24 million viewers on the evening it first aired.
Then it stored getting greater: Season two grew by 32 % to six.91 million same-day viewers. Season three rose by nearly 56 % to 10.75 million; season 4 by 24 precent extra to 13.33 million. Season 5 represented the present’s peak in scores, because it averaged 14.38 million same-day viewers, an 8 % enchancment over the prior one. The season 5 premiere was The Walking Dead’s most watched episode ever, with 17.29 million tuning in on Oct. 12, 2014, and about 5 million extra watching throughout the subsequent seven days.
The present was additionally the best launchpad AMC ever had. The Walking Dead now stands fourth all time amongst cable collection premieres in adults 18-49. The three exhibits forward of it are a derivative (Fear the Walking Dead) and two collection — Better Call Saul and Into the Badlands — that debuted after Walking Dead episodes.
Seasons six and 7 of The Walking Dead declined some, however the present was nonetheless a juggernaut, averaging 13.15 million and 11.35 million viewers for these two runs. In truth, starting halfway by means of season three, the collection had a run of 75 consecutive episodes with greater than 10 million same-day viewers, an unheard-of streak for a cable scripted collection. That’s two episodes greater than the total run of Game of Thrones, as an example.
That span makes up lower than half of The Walking Dead’s complete episode depend, which might be 177 after Sunday. Only a handful of scripted cable collection — South Park and SpongeBob SquarePants amongst them — have banked extra episodes. It was most likely inevitable, then, that the present would decline, and it did starting with season eight in 2017-18.
That season averaged 7.82 million same-day viewers (and about 11.7 million after per week of delayed viewing), down 30 % from the earlier yr. The ninth season fell by 37 % extra and the tenth by about the identical share once more. The drawn-out last season, which has performed out in three eight-episode batches over 15 months, has solely topped 2 million same-day viewers as soon as, for the Aug. 15, 2021, premiere.
Those declines have come partly as a result of fewer folks get AMC of their properties. At its peak within the mid-2010s, AMC was in some 94 million properties with cable and satellite tv for pc service; on the similar time, about 100 million TV properties had some kind of pay TV service.
Cord-cutting has dented these figures considerably previously years. AMC now reaches about 78 properties, a 17 % decline from its excessive about seven years in the past.
Delayed viewing for the present brings a 60 percent-70 % bump over seven days, and streaming presumably provides a large variety of folks as effectively. The “presumably” is there as a result of, as is commonly the case with streaming information, AMC is tight-lipped about how many individuals watch The Walking Dead through its AMC+ platform. AMC Networks has 11.1 million streaming subscribers throughout AMC+ and a collection of area of interest companies like Shudder, AllBLK and Sundance Now.
If The Walking Dead is ending with a relative whimper — whether or not it’s 3 million or 5 million or nonetheless many cross-platform viewers — in comparison with its heyday, the present’s place in AMC and cable TV’s historical past is safe. Very few cable exhibits have ever reached the heights it did; solely Paramount Network’s Yellowstone presently approaches the on-air numbers of peak Walking Dead. Considering the streaming-focused state of the enterprise now, and a pullback of scripted exhibits on cable shops, it’s doubtless even fewer exhibits will get to these highs sooner or later.