There was a time when The Walking Dead was the biggest thing on TV. That time has now passed. Sunday’s episode, “The Bridge,” had the lowest ratings in series history, beating the previous worst record set in season one.
According to Variety, the episode received a 2.0 rating in the key demographic of adults 18-49. The previous record was a 2.4 during season one, when the show was just starting to find its audience. However, in terms of total viewers (as opposed to ratings), 4.9 million people watched this week’s episode live or same day, which is not the worst ever. It’s the second worst ever to 4.7 million, also in the first season. If that math seems wonky, it’s because ratings are determined by populations and various other confusing factors. And yes, those numbers go up with streaming and DVR and all that.
This is news, though, not just because of the new low. It’s because there’s a trend here. Last week’s season nine premiere was the lowest-rated premiere in series history—coming off the season eight finale, which was the lowest-rated finale in series history. To put that in perspective, the last three new episodes of The Walking Dead, which include an always hyped-up finale and premiere, have set some kind of personal worsts in ratings for the show. That’s crazy.
Any show is going to experience some decline after nine seasons. In the case of The Walking Dead, it’s a season built around the highly publicized departure of the show’s main character, played by Andrew Lincoln. But in recent months there were reports of co-star Norman Reedus potentially signing a huge new contract and the CEO of AMC saying he wanted The Walking Dead franchise to continue for 10 years plus and expand into movies and stuff. All of that made it seem like The Walking Dead would live forever. These ratings, though, strongly suggest fans are starting to peel off the show en masse. Is there anything that could win them back? We’ll have to wait and see.