There's been a lot of schadenfreude over The Walking Dead season 8 premiere ratings in the last few days, after the numbers came out and revealed that the show had its lowest season premiere viewership in the last five years.
For those who love to hate The Walking Dead, this ratings news has been like fuel on the dumpster fire of criticizing and tearing down the show in its moment of supposed weakness. Of course context is everything, and compared to the rest of cable TV, it seems like The Walking Dead is doing just fine.
TV By The Numbers has broken down the ratings for the week of TWD's season 8 premiere, and found that the show still finished at no. 1 for cable, by wide margin. With 11.4 million viewers a 5.0 rating in the coveted 18 - 49 demo, The Walking Dead was still 72% higher than the second place entry, Monday Night Football, and well ahead of the ALCS championship game between the Yankees and Astros.
The issue with the "massive drop" in ratings comes from the fact that The Walking Dead season 7 premiered with a whopping 16.4 million viewers, while seasons 4 and 5 topping things off with 18.4 million and 20.1 million, respectively.
Given that the season 8 premiere was competing with several major sporting events, and didn't offer the sort of "see it in real time" incentive of the massive season 7 premiere cliffhanger reveal, it's not all that surprising that the Walking Dead couldn't top it's own past success - while still holding onto its crown as the king of cable.
More to the point: this is a show that is in its eighth season on the air! If anything, we should be looking at the comparison of other shows that have run this long, and whether or not their latter seasons had this much pull. When you look at it like that...
Catch The Walking Dead season 8 Sundays @ 9pm EST on AMC.