“The Walking Dead” returned Sunday for Season 8, stalking 11.4 million total viewers that night. Incredibly, for this show, that’s not great — as a matter of fact, it’s down 35 percent year over year.
The zombie drama’s 2016 season premiere, which had something of a “Who Shot J.R.”-esque cliffhanger, hauled in a whopping 17.5 million total viewers on Night 1, which was up 16 percent from 2015’s comparable opening episode. The Season 7 start had revealed Negan’s offscreen victim, a major character death that drew extra eyeballs to AMC’s “live” presentation.
That year-ago payoff episode was pretty much in line with the Season 5 premiere — clearly, this ain’t ’15 or ’16.
Among viewers 18-49 — the favorite age range for most advertisers — 2016’s Episode 701 nabbed an 8.4 rating, per Nielsen’s Live + Same Day metric. Episode 801 had a 5.0, which is down a frightening 40 percent. Even so, “The Walking Dead” is still TV’s No. 1 entertainment show of the season.
It’s worth pointing out that versus last year’s midseason premiere, Sunday’s hour rose 5 percent among total viewers. And this past weekend’s return also out-drew the back-half of Season 7 in terms of average night-of viewership. So there’s that.
AMC does not share L+SD measurements; the cable channel chooses to focus on Nielsen numbers that include three days worth of delayed viewing, which will be out on Friday. Those should close the gap a bit versus last year.
'The Walking Dead' Surprises: 26 Times the TV Show Has Strayed From the Comics
The show doesn’t always stick with the story as told in the comics it’s adapting (SPOILERS)
"The Walking Dead" generally follows the path of the graphic novel series on which it's based, but the AMC hit has often changed things up. Here are 26 times the show took a meaningful diversion from the story that "Walking Dead" creator Robert Kirkman laid out on paper, through the next-to-last episode of season 8.