After reaching near record highs with the Season 7 premiere, The Walking Dead is now losing millions of viewers. Why are so many fans tuning out of the hit zombie drama?
When Season 7 aired on AMC to finally reveal the conclusion to the Negan cliffhanger, tons of people were watching. A whopping 17 million viewers were tuning in to see which fan favorites were leaving the series. The episode answered the question, but it seems millions of fans were unhappy with the result.
The very next week, a painful 4.5 million viewers didn’t come back to watch episode 702, dropping to 12.5 million overall. That total would drop further to 11.72 million the next week. AMC was hoping the extended episode 704 would bump viewership back up, but it fell even more to 11.5 million. This drop puts The Walking Dead in the #2 slot for the night for the first time in years, losing out to NCIS: Los Angeles.
Pulling in over 11 million viewers is still mighty impressive. Compare that to The Exorcist, which is pulling just over one million viewers a week. Even with these numbers, the show is extremely successful. But the falling numbers are not a good thing at all. AMC needs to ask why they’re losing fans every single week.
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Most likely, the weak payoff to the major cliffhanger turned departing fans off the most. The two people who died were the same ones most fans were theorizing. Following the comics so closely made the storyline conclusion extremely predictable. Fans hoping to be surprised may have been disappointed to “call it” yet again on this series.
During Season 3, The Walking Dead was on the upswing. It kept breaking its own record high each week. Perhaps it was helping that the show was diverging from the comics the most during that season. Nobody had any idea where the story was going moving forward, and it made each new episode more exciting to watch.
You also should consider the all-time series high, which is the Season 5 premiere. That’s an example of a cliffhanger conclusion done right. The explosive pay-off more than made up for leaving the fans hanging all summer long. The Terminus storyline also wasn’t derived from the comics, so viewers didn’t know exactly what was going to happen.
With the Season 7 premiere, fans were kept waiting until halfway through the show to finally see who dies. Then, when it happens, it just seems so anticlimactic. Abraham’s death was overshadowed by Glenn’s, and Glenn’s eyeball popping out was cheesy and silly— not everything from the books translates well to the small screen. Michael Cudlitz and Steven Yeun both deserved better. I think the way this played out irritated fans more than it shocked or saddened them.
I’m sticking with The Walking Dead because I’m such a big fan. Throughout its highs and lows, I started as a comic reader and have been watching the series since its premiere. But even as a major comic fan, I want nothing more than for the TV show to go off on its own path again. Copying the comics so closely is feeling lazy and unoriginal, and I just want to see new territory explored.
And it seems like millions of other people agree with me.