The Walking Dead premiere has reached a new ratings low for the series. It’s a narrative that’s starting to become an annual tradition, especially since last year’s premiere saw the show’s ratings reach a nadir in its own right that was eventually shared with last year’s finale. Nevertheless, this year’s “The Walking Dead’s low rated premiere” story yields a startling statistic.
While the title of the The Walking Dead Season 9 premiere may have – in its very title – touted “A New Beginning,” said beginning got off to a rough start for the veteran AMC series. Nielsen’s Live+Same Day data reveals that the latest premiere earned a 2.5 rating in adults 18-49 and 6.1 million viewers this past Sunday. These numbers make the Season 9 opener stand as the lowest-rated premiere in the history of the series. The previous low number belonged to the 2010 series premiere, which stood with a 2.7 rating.
Additionally, the percentages do not paint a pretty picture for The Walking Dead, since the Season 9 premiere was down by nearly 50% in the (18-49) key demo and 47% in total viewers compared to the – also-low – Season 8 premiere, which drew a 5.0 and 11.4 million viewers last year. Moreover, the Season 9 opener’s 2.5 rating places the series dangerously close to its all-time key demo low of 2.4, which occurred during Season 1, back when it was still an experimental 6-episode fall 2010 season offering.
What might serve as the lemonade from the proverbial lemons here is the number of overall viewers has not quite reached a low. The Walking Dead Season 9 may have fallen below the Season 1 premiere in terms of the ratings, but its 6.1 million viewers still outdrew the 5.4 million viewers of the series premiere. Additionally, while its former status as top-rated series on Sundays was yielded to NBC’s This is Us, it’s still a close contest, since that show barely bested TWD with a 2.7 rating. Indeed, TWD firmly remains the top-rated cable series for Sunday night.
AMC also points to the fact that The Walking Dead Season 9 premiere drove the single highest day of sign-ups to the network’s commercial-free upgrade plan; an aspect suggesting that the show might be becoming a bigger draw to streaming viewers. Thus, there’s an argument to be made that the shrinking Nielsen numbers could reflect an audience delivery method that’s in the midst of an evolution.
It’s not all doom and gloom for The Walking Dead just yet, though. The series – with new showrunner Angela Kang in the driver’s seat – had a lot of exposition to cover in the Season 9 opener. Besides an 18-month time jump, the nascent Seaon 9 storyline is clearly gearing up for the imminent exits of stars Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan, continuing the intriguing arc of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s imprisoned big bad, Negan, while heralding the arrival of the frightening new group of antagonists in the predatory, walker-skin-mask-wearing group known as The Whisperers, led by Alpha (Samantha Morton) and Beta (Ryan Hurst). Thus, there are developments ahead with the potential to win back lapsed viewers.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC at 9/8c.
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