The Walking Dead returned for its ninth season on Sunday evening, but it seems a new showrunner, a timejump and the looming departures of Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes and Lauren Cohan’s Maggie Rhee hasn’t been enough to halt the ratings slide that’s plagued the show for the past few seasons.
The premiere episode pulled in 6.1 million viewers – down 47% from the previous season 8 premiere, and 51% in the key 18-49 demo. Last year’s season 8 premiere – which also marked the 100th episode overall – pulled in the lowest rating since season 2 with 11.4 million viewers, but season 9 has gone one better and becomes the least viewed season premiere since season one launched with 5.35 million viewers back in 2010.
Last season saw the show dropping to season one level ratings overall, and given the numbers for the premiere, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we start seeing some series lows over the coming weeks and months (currently, the least watched episode is 1.2 – ‘Gut’s – which had 4.71 million viewers).
It’s worth noting however that viewing habits have changed over the past nine years, particularly when it comes to live ratings – not to mention the fact that AMC also made the premiere available 24 hours earlier on its AMC Premiere service. And, even without taking those viewers into account, it remains the most-watched drama on cable in the 18-49 demo, and the second-most viewed drama series overall behind NBC’s This Is Us.
Nevertheless, AMC may want to hold fire on those plans for another decade of the show for the time being…
“Last season brought the culmination of “All Out War,” which pitted Rick Grimes and his group of survivors against the Saviors and their cunning leader, Negan. With Negan’s life in his hands, Rick had a character-defining choice in front of him. By making the unilateral decision to spare Negan, Rick upheld the values his late son, Carl, championed in order to build for the future, but created conflict within his group. Now, we see our survivors a year and a half after the end of the war, rebuilding civilization under Rick’s steadfast leadership. It is a time of relative peace among the communities as they work together, looking to the past to forge the future, but the world they knew is rapidly changing as man-made structures continue to degrade, and nature takes over, changing the landscape and creating new challenges for our survivors. As time passes, the communities confront unexpected obstacles, danger, and of course, walkers, but nothing quite prepares them for the formidable force they are about to encounter, which threatens the very idea of civilization that our survivors have worked so hard to build.”
The Walking Dead season 9 airs on Sundays in the US and on Mondays in the UK.