‘Walking Dead’ ratings falling off sharply since grisly opening episode

This is posted Wednesday, November 23, 2016 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

The ratings trajectory (overnight only) as measured by Wikipedia.

The ratings trajectory (overnight only) as measured by Wikipedia.

AMC’s top-rated drama “The Walking Dead,” since its grisly and controversial season 7 debut, has seen ratings slide to its lowest overnight numbers since season three.

A lot of people on social media vowed to stop watching after seeing Abraham and (especially) Glenn die. That apparently has happened.

Overnight ratings are not as important as they used to be. Plenty of people now watch on demand or on DVR days later. But “The Walking Dead” has always prided itself as a show people like to watch live because it still has water-cooler cache.

After opening with 17 million viewers (elevated to more than 20 million after DVR usage), the show has lost a whopping 35 percent of overnight viewers. The fifth episode that aired November 20 drew just 11 million overnight viewers.

The last time overnight ratings were that low, you’d have to go back to season three, episode 15.

A year ago, the show opened at 14.63 million and was only down 15 percent from episodes one to five. In 2014, the five episode drop-off was 22 percent; during season four, it was 24 percent.

That 17 million number was the second highest viewership in the show’s history. It was fueled by the “Who did Negan kill?” cliffhanger from the end of season six. But it’s not the type of gambit “The Walking Dead” can use again and again. At this point in any drama series, fatigue does tend to set in and writers start groping for new angles.

And while the show has been consistently violent from its debut in 2010, the gruesome nature of that first episode turned a lot of fans off.

“I bailed for good a few minutes into the season premiere,” said Janet Patterson, a former Atlantan who now lives in Louisville. “Brutality for its own sake – and the Negan/Rick ‘meeting’ was that, physically & verbally – is not entertainment to me. Haven’t watched another minute & haven’t missed it (except Daryl, of course). Watched originally only because I lived in Atlanta (Cobb Center as CDC was the best local touch), hung in because one of my best friends was totally hooked. But that episode was one I was NOT going to brook. (Also, I’ve had a Major Crush on Jeffrey Dean Morgan for years and this is not how I choose to see him.)”

“It’s dull and slow and not like the beginning,” said Kirby Lile, another former fan and 40-something Atlanta office manager, on my Facebook page. “Now we’re supposed to believe the private detective who was sleeping with Alicia Floreck [a reference to actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan appearing on “The Good Wife”] is going around killing people with a bat? Where did he come from out of the blue? I’ve watched every episode and this season’s premiere was the last. There are too many other things to watch and this show is wasting my time with whatever it has become. No hard feelings.”

Matt Norris, a 42-year-old Thomaston AP literature teacher on my AJC Radio & TV Talk Facebook page, cracked: “The Presidential election made us all realize that we were already the walking dead.” (He noted this was purely a non-partisan joke. He didn’t like either candidate.)

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