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Given the stunning showing during its seventh season premiere, it’s easy to understand why many have focused on The Walking Dead‘s subsequent ratings dips. But the AMC drama, which closed out the first half of season No. 7 this past Sunday, continues to be a juggernaut without rival.
Live-plus-three day averages for the seventh season have the AMC drama pulling 16.1 million viewers per episode and a daunting 8.3 rating among adults 18-49 once time-shifting is taken into account. That’s enough to still easily rank it as TV’s biggest series in the key demographic. The Walking Dead also wrapped 2017 as the third most-watched series on television — falling behind only CBS superpowers The Big Bang Theory and NCIS.
But the recent eight-episode run also made it clear that the show is aging. Even as a higher percentage of viewers opt to watch the show on a delay, its total haul has diminished.
For the Dec. 11 mid-season finale, both the same day showing and live-plus-three day scores were down from the comparable 2015 episode — though those margins narrowed with time-shifting. After three days of DVR, the mid-season finale averaged 15.2 million viewers and a 7.5 rating among adults 18-49. (In the key demo, that’s a difference of roughly 19 percent from the sixth midseason finale.)
Even before the start of this seventh season, The Walking Dead’s ratings trajectory was on the decline — as is the case with almost every show that’s been on the air for as long. But what made the in-season losses so dramatic was how high it rated when it premiered. Attention around a season six cliffhanger drove the show to near-series highs in October. More than 17 million viewers tuned in on premiere night alone.
For now, the show is just being forced to grapple with the natural lifespan of a hit — though, in comparison to every other scripted series on television, it still has a long way to fall before losing status on the TV food chain.
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