Season 9 of The Walking Dead was supposed to be a return to form after a somewhat muted reaction to season 8. It seems that this isn’t entirely going to plan, however. Last Sunday’s episode, “Stradivarius,” scored a lowly 4.79 million viewers, giving it a 1.8 rating in the key 18 to 49 demographic, which makes it the least watched live episode in the show’s long history. Now that Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes is gone, are viewers going to stick around for the long haul?
That’s the question on everyone’s mind at the moment, and it comes on the heels of some other not-so-hot stories about the show’s ratings. For instance, the season 9 premiere had the lowest audience for a premiere since the first season, with a relatively anaemic six million tuning in.
For their part, AMC is being their usual bullish selves about the numbers, arguing that many viewers use the AMC Premiere service, which screens episodes 24 hours ahead of their live broadcast. While they don’t provide any specific numbers on how many people watch the show there, they do claim that they’ve broken subscription records for it.
Frankly, that feels a bit like dodging the question. Still, while ratings might be steadily decreasing, most critics agree that season 9 is a big improvement on recent runs and genuinely marks a new era for the show.
To put it bluntly though, ever-declining ratings doesn’t suggest a healthy long-term prognosis for any TV series, even one as a big of a deal as The Walking Dead. Could it be that audiences are getting tired of the slow-moving plotlines, with the amount to catch up putting off any new viewers? It’s possible, and though AMC’s announced they have plans for another ten years of the show, if this downward trend continues, expect them to change that plan pretty quickly.
Maybe Andrew Lincoln picked just the right to time to leave The Walking Dead?