The Walking Dead has been a cable ratings juggernaut. Through the first six or seven seasons, no other show on cable television had ever achieved the ratings highs that the zombie drama had achieved. Unfortunately, no other show has ever seen such a quick and steep decline in ratings too. A study from earlier this year tried to figure out what caused viewers to depart from the show.
Broadband Choices conducted a review of ratings data collected from IMDb.com and charted the ratings for the first nine seasons of the The Walking Dead. The results show that after the premiere of Season 7, where Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) were executed by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the ratings decline began.
Broadband Choices’ review of The Walking Dead’s season averages dropped slightly over the course of the first six seasons. At the start of Season 7, “the quality of the show falls off a cliff.” There were several issues with the show. There was the outrage over the executions of two significant characters. Another issue was the communities’ inability to do anything significant to stop Negan. As well, viewers became very tired of Negan’s redundant behavior and monologues.
Additionally, the Season 7 opener received complaints from the FCC for its violent and graphic depiction of the executions. The Parents Television Council reported the “brutally explicit” episode was “one of the most graphically violent shows we’ve ever seen on television.” This also marked the beginning of the show’s rapid decline in viewership. No other show has seen such a decline in viewership numbers as quickly as The Walking Dead.
In October, during his panel at Walker Stalker Con Atlanta, Morgan admitted Negan was “very one-dimensional” during Seasons 7 and 8.
“I thought the first couple of years that we knew Negan was very one-dimensional. To me, when Negan came out of the RV for the first time, we didn’t learn anything about him for two years, three years. And that was hard,” said Morgan. “I felt like everything that I said coming out of that RV is sort of what I said for the next two years, and never shifted. I think with the introduction of Judith (Cailey Fleming), and that relationship, we got to see a little different side of him.”
As well, AMC president Sarah Barnett admitted to the LA Times that The Walking Dead lost viewers over Negan being “too hopeless” a villain. Essentially, Negan was too much of dominate bad-ass. Here’s what she had to say:
“In terms of the quality question, I think that with 10 seasons of television — something like ER or Grey’s Anatomy — shows go through spurts. We’ve done a lot of research on the response to it and we certainly have our own thoughts about it. It’s true to say that that season with Negan [a mega-villain played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan] became a little too hopeless for audiences. I think that there was creative intention behind it that was really smart and thoughtful, but I think it probably pushed people to a place where it was a lot to take at a time when maybe people just didn’t want to see that.”
Season 8 marked the lowest ratings for a season, which was dubbed “All Out War.” However, viewers felt that a true war never culminated but instead the show continued aimlessly. Multiple opportunities to kill Negan were presented to Rick and his crew but were unsuccessful. The best example is when Rick and the gang arrive at the Sanctuary and fired their weapons on every object in the world except Negan, who was was standing wide open and unprotected on an elevated platform. As well in Season 8, Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) died due to a walker bite and fans were outraged at how poorly his death was written and many believed that Carl should have been the future of the show, much like his comic book counterpart.
Season 9 brought in new showrunner, Angela Kang, and saw an improvement in the quality of writing and storytelling. However, Season 9 also saw the show’s central character, Rick Grimes, depart the show. Although the season was a critical success and individual episode ratings increased, viewership numbers continued to decline.
Finally, Season 10 received the highest rating scores of any of the 10 seasons of The Walking Dead. Kang and her team have put together much greater stories and depth. Also, Alpha (Samantha Morton) and the Whisperers have given the show’s heroes a much more dangerous group of antagonists. As well, Negan’s story lines and better dialogue now have fans cheering him on. Morgan said in his panel, that Season 10 is the “best stuff [he’s] gotten to do on the show.”
There’s a new Negan in Season 10 and fans are loving the character’s story line. Negan has proven valuable to our Survivors and he’s established himself a more trustworthy.
The Walking Dead Season 11 returns in February for it’s final season.
What do you think is the cause for the ratings fall of The Walking Dead? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.