"The Walking Dead" brand is still relevant, even if viewing habits are changing. That's the word from executive producer David Alpert, who founded Skybound Entertainment with TWD creator Robert Kirkman.
Alpert talked to Variety's "Remote Controlled" podcast about the sharp ratings drop that started last year after the huge ratings for the Season 7 premiere. That devastating episode led some viewers to stop watching -- at least "live" Sunday nights -- and the same-day numbers (and 18-49 demo ratings) have slowly and steadily dropped ever since. The silver lining is that "The Walking Dead" remains the most-watched TV show -- and highest-rated in the advertiser-loving 18-49 demo -- on Sunday nights, even if it can no longer compete with its own glory days.
Alpert defended the show to Variety by arguing that many people are still watching, they're just delaying their viewing until later in the week, or even in later months, or later years:
"I don't think in any way the brand has lost its relevance in general. I think we're just seeing a decline in urgency across all media to consume something at a specific time. [...]
I think overall we're seeing increased competition, not just from television and not just from streaming services, but you get content everywhere. The idea that people watch things super live, that need to view on the same night and we're measuring ratings like a live rating, I feel like it's a little be anachronistic to be like, 'Oh, you're not holding the same ratings that you were.' [...]
I still get people coming up to me at conventions talking about, they're in the middle of Season 6. They can't believe what's going on. I still get people coming up to me like, 'You killed Beth? You killed Beth? What's the matter with you?' And I'm like, 'Are you in Season 5?' and they're like, 'Yeah, I'm in Season 5!'"
It's hard to gauge how many people are still getting caught up from the beginning. But advertisers do tend to care about who is watching on the same night versus later on, so AMC probably cares, too. It may be an outdated way of judging viewership, but since the Nielsen numbers still have tremendous power, the TWD ratings drop does matter.
According to Variety's previous reports, "The Walking Dead" Season 8's recent midseason finale failed to provide a major boost in the Nielsen Live+Same Day ratings. That episode averaged a 3.4 rating in adults 18-49 and 7.9 million viewers, the lowest-rated midseason finale since Season 2's 3.5 and 6.6 million viewers. The first half of Season 8 averaged a 3.9 rating and 8.7 million viewers per episode, compared to Season 7's 5.7 demo average by the halfway point, along with 12.1 million overall viewers:
"This is the latest in a string of bad ratings news for the megahit AMC series this season. The Season 8 premiere was the show's lowest-rated since its third season, despite the fact that the Season 8 opener was also the show's 100th episode. This season has also seen the show consistently put up numbers it has not experienced since its first few seasons."
However, since the midseason finale had a major shocking twist, it stands to reason that many viewers -- even some who just read about the twist and didn't watch the episode -- will be tuning in to see what happens next.
Season 8 returns Sunday, Feb. 25 at 9 p.m. on AMC.
Want more stuff like this? Like us on Facebook.