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Walking Dead’s finale suffers lowest ratings in five years, but it’s not all bad

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It’s still doing pretty okay

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead aired its season seven finale on the weekend, and just about everyone agreed it was lackluster overall. It almost felt like an amalgamation of the season’s overarching issues that its showrunners need to fix.

Now, AMC has to deal with another blow following the show’s less-than-stellar reviews: poor ratings. It should be noted, however, that while the numbers Nielsen released are considered bad for the show, the ratings are not abysmal. The finale brought in just over 11 million viewers when it aired, which may pale in comparison to last season’s numbers, a whopping 14.2 million viewers, but it’s still considered incredibly high.

While some of that slide in viewers can be attributed to lower ratings for the show overall, there is one big event that must be mentioned as its absolutely crucial: WrestleMania. The Walking Dead was competing with wrestling’s biggest event of the year. Last year’s WrestleMania had just over 18 million viewers; and it’s fair to say that there is probably a bit of crossover between those who watch The Walking Dead and those who watch wrestling.

The big question is what does this mean for the show? Nothing, necessarily. Even with 11.3 viewers, The Walking Dead is still one of the most watched shows on television. Plus, this doesn’t include numbers for those who watch it on demand afterward, digital downloads or streaming. For example, Westworld’s finale only got 2.2 million live viewers, while Game of Thrones’ season six finale drew in 8.9. Although Westworld and Game of Thrones are two of HBO’s biggest series, they don’t even come close to The Walking Dead’s numbers. Even on network television, the only show giving The Walking Dead a run for its money is The Big Bang Theory, which is still one of the most watched shows on television. Its season nine finale, which aired last year, brought in just under 20 million viewers.

What should be more concerning for The Walking Dead showrunners and AMC is the negative attention the season and episode received.

Although we liked the finale, in our critique of the season, we said that “the primary problem in season seven is that the show is unequipped to deal with a wider post-apocalyptic world that includes multiple hostile and non-hostile communities.” It’s something that AMC can fix, and most shows after their fourth or fifth season have to find a way to rebrand the original vision.

The Walking Dead isn’t in trouble ratings wise, even if Nielsen reports suggest otherwise, but the show does need to figure out a way to reclaim some of the original magic that entranced viewers to begin with.