The Walking Dead returns this fall, to a milestone episode count but also with the opportunity to set a certain ratings record.
The Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead will serve as the 100th overall episode of the series. It's a milestone many shows only dream of but the zombie drama is looking to race past. With the 100th episode, the AMC series would love nothing more than to do what the Season 7 premiere could not: break the series ratings record.
To post record numbers in terms of viewership, The Walking Dead would have to overcome the downward slope observed throughout its seventh season. Season 7 (The Day Will Come When You Won't Be) started with 17 million viewers -- a number just shy of the 17.3 million viewer record set two years prior (No Sanctuary). The unforgettable premiere was one of the most highly anticipated hours in television history as Negan's victim's identity was revealed after six months of dealing with a painful cliffhanger paid off.
Despite the drop over the course of the 16-episode run which saw Rick Grimes and his group beaten down and bullied by Negan and the Saviors, the ratings never dropped below 10 million viewers. Those faithful 10 million viewers will all be back as the series finally reaches the moments they have been waiting for: All Out War.
With action, explosions, and the fight being taken back to Negan in the Season 8 trailer, The Walking Dead is giving fans something to root for with its new season and, therefore, a whole new reason to continue watching or revisit a show they may have given up on.
Furthermore, the series can market the Season 8 premiere as 100th episode milestone which it is. In fact, AMC has already begun the 100 episodes campaign -- which includes heavy thanks to fans -- by recapping unforgettable moments which got the audience hooked along the way.
Throughout Season 7, The Walking Dead endured peaks and valleys similar to each season before it. The premieres, midseason premieres, midseason finales, and finales always see a bump in the ratings.
When the series teases milestone events or major plot moments, the numbers tend to jump even higher. Aside from the example of Negan's introduction and kills being revealed, the Season 5 finale directly followed the group's entrapment in a Terminus train car -- earning the record ratings before seeing a valley until the Season 5 midseason finale and premiere episodes saw considerable spikes.
Here are the ratings as they went throughout Season 7...
- 7x01: 17.03 million
- 7x02: 12.46 million
- 7x03: 11.72 million
- 7x04: 11.40 million
- 7x05: 11.00 million
- 7x06: 10.40 million
- 7x07: 10.48 million
- 7x08: 10.58 million
- 7x09: 12 million
- 7x10: 11.08 million
- 7x11: 10.42 million
- 7x12: 10.16 million
- 7x13: 10.68 million
- 7x14: 10.32 million
- 7x15: 10.54 million
- 7x16: 11.3 million
So, can The Walking Dead top 17.3 million viewers on October 22?
The safe bet, based on buzz for the series right now, is that The Walking Dead's Season 8 premiere will not top that of Season 5 (or Season 7, for that matter).
A near seven million viewer rise from finale to premiere would be an uncanny burst in eyeballs glued to AMC on a Sunday night from April 2 to October 22. Such growth would be nearly double the show's biggest episode-to-episode gain which came between the Season 4 midseason finale and premiere, which landed just shy of a four million viewer increase with 3.71 million more people tuning in for the midseason premiere.
A very obtainable 15 million total viewers for the Season 8 premiere would do the trick.
Still, the positive response to the action-packed San Diego Comic Con trailer and its mind-blowing final moments are a good sign for AMC's flagship series which could use some good news after a summer plagued with lawsuit news and an on-set injury leading to the loss of a stuntman.
All things considered, The Walking Dead most likely won't post a ratings number larger than 17 million viewers but has an opportunity to break its record of increased viewership on an episode-to-episode basis. The show will easily eclipse the just over 11 million viewers who watched the Season 7 finale, but the question is: by how much?
The Walking Dead's sibling series Fear the Walking Dead returns September 10th. The Walking Dead will return for its eighth season on October 22, 2017. The Season Eight premiere will mark 100 episodes overall for the popular AMC series. For complete coverage and insider info all season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.