Why 'The Walking Dead' Season 9 Premiere Ratings Are Misleading

The Walking Dead premiered with lackluster ratings by comparison to previous years on Sunday night but the downed numbers are slightly misleading.

AMC offered Episode 9x01 to members of its AMC Premiere service 24 hours ahead of its broadcast debut. Many of the fans had already watched the episode before it aired and others saw spoilers or information prior to Sunday night. While the numbers for AMC Premiere viewers have not yet been released (unclear if they will be), the audience which narrowly topped 6 million live viewers for the weakest premiere in the series' history might not be an accurate indication of the show's strength.

The Season Nine premiere garnered 6.1 million viewers with 3.2 million of the viewers coming from the key 18-49 demographic. It was a staggering 23% drop from the Season Eight finale six months prior. The Season Eight premiere boasted larger numbers, as well, posting 11.4 million live viewers and 6.5 million in the key demographic.

The Season Nine premiere will likely see a significant boost in numbers when DVR and on-demand viewings are included in Live+3 ratings.

With the season being marketed as Rick Grimes' final season and several reviews for the early Season Nine episodes being quite positive, there was an expectation for a bump in numbers. The slower paced recent seasons, however, turned some viewers away as Rick and Negan's groups of survivors threw bullets at each other for more than 32 episodes.

The show will have Andrew Lincoln on board for a few more episodes, which could bolster the numbers a bit for Rick's sendoff in the comics weeks. How the show hangs in terms of ratings beyond Rick's departure is unpredictable, at this point, despite promising a fan-favorite comic book villain in his wake.

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"We had a long run-up to it as far as possibility, conversations, and it's story," The Walking Dead chief content officer Scott Gimple told Comicbook.com. "You find the story and you lean into that. Andy Lincoln is a storytelling and he did, too."

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 pm ET. Fear the Walking Dead will return for its fifth season in 2019. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter!