The Walking Dead just keeps shambling onward, much like its titular reanimated corpses, but the AMC zombie drama’s audience is showing signs of starting to slowly decompose: Its Season 10 premiere episode, “Lines We Cross,” aired this past Sunday and drew a series-low 4 million same-day viewers, with a 1.4 rating among adults 18-49. The show’s ratings rock bottom was the penultimate episode of its ninth season, which aired back in March, tallying 4.15 million same-day viewers and a 1.5 in the 18-49 demographic. The Season 10 premiere’s numbers are down significantly from the series’ Season Nine premiere, to the tune of a 34% drop-off in total viewers, including a 35% drop in AMC’s core demo of adults 25-54 and a 42% drop among adults 18-49.
However, there are a couple of factors in play that may help to explain the show’s ratings stumble. This TV season, it’s not been uncommon for well-known shows to see notable ratings drops in their returns to the airwaves, as THR points out: The Walking Dead’s 35% fall in the 25-54 demo is about in line with, for instance, the recent Season Four premiere of This Is Us, which saw a 33% drop. The ubiquity of streaming means TV viewers are less inclined to watch new episodes of their favorite shows when they first air, given the ease of catching up at their own convenience—in fact, “Lines We Cross” was available to AMC Premiere subscribers a week early, meaning AMC’s own streaming service may have taken a bite out of the Season 10 premiere’s same-day ratings. It’s likely The Walking Dead will smell more like roses and less like carcasses as those catch-up viewing numbers filter in throughout the week.
To be clear, The Walking Dead remains ad-supported cable’s single biggest non-sports, non-news series, with a sizable advantage over even its nearest competition. Showrunner Angela Kang announced The Walking Dead’s 11th season renewal a day before Season 10 debuted, also revealing that Lauren Cohan will be back as a series regular. The Walking Dead will have to die many more deaths before it finally, actually ends.
Read our review of “Lines We Cross” right here, in which we contemplate whether this massively popular show even matters anymore.