‘The Walking Dead’ Still on Top Despite Decreasing Ratings

The Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang isn’t concerned about slipping ratings for the long-running series, now in its ninth season, saying the show will continue as long as creator Robert Kirkman’s ongoing comic book series continues to provide “great source material.”

“Robert Kirkman’s comic book continues to grow strong,” Kang told BBC.

“As I’ve been working here I think I’ve definitely had the experience where I say: ‘This is the best storyline that has ever been written for the comics. It can’t be topped, we’re going to have to end the show.’ But then he comes up with an amazing twist that makes us keep on reading. There are a lot of ways in which the story could end.”

“But as long as the comic keeps going strong,” she added, “it’s hard for me to say it has to end at this point. We never know what Robert is going to throw at us.”

Kirkman, who remains on board the series as executive producer despite signing an overall deal with Amazon Studios, recently said he knows how his monthly hit Image Comics series should end, but noted no one “should have concerns about things wrapping up too soon.”

“I know what I’m building to, to eventually wrap things up,” Kirkman told Variety when celebrating the book’s 15-year anniversary this month.

“If I didn’t have that I’d just be twisting in the wind trying to lay track. I don’t know if that’s going to come in 1,000 issues or 100 issues, but I know what the conclusion of the story is and what has to happen to get there.”

AMC’s flagship series hit its lowest ratings ever this season, slipping to a series low of 1.94 in the key adults 18-49 demo.

Despite its steep drop, The Walking Dead is still the top-rated series on cable as less than 1 percent of shows aired in primetime reach even the 1.0 among adults 18-49, per THR.

The Walking Dead ranked second in the top 25 original cable shows in adults 18—49 for the week — behind only Monday Night Football’s marquee San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers game — and was the only non-sports program in the top 15 performers.

When counting viewers in the top 25 original cable shows for the week, The Walking Dead ranked sixth with an estimated 5.03 million viewers, making it the only scripted program in that top 25, which is otherwise dominated by live sports and news-slash-talk programs.

The network has since advertised the final two episodes of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), which are expected to draw bigger numbers — even if those viewers aren’t retained in the post-Rick era.

The series hit its previous record low with Season Eight episode “The Lost and the Plunderers,” the first episode to follow the death of Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) in the mid-season premiere. That episode drew just a 2.9 rating in adults 18-49, then the first time The Walking Dead pulled in less than a 3.0 rating since its debut season.

Despite the plummet in the ratings — which may have been hurt, not helped, by AMC’s open acknowledgement of the front half of Season Nine being Rick Grimes’ final episodes — online positivity surrounding The Walking Dead is the highest it’s been in years, with many reviewers citing the returned focus to complex, character-driven human drama under the stewardship of new showrunner Kang as a significant improvement.

The Walking Dead Season Nine is the highest rated season in the show’s history on Rotten Tomatoes, where it holds a 99% rating from critics and an 82% “liked it” audience score. Its first three episodes have earned individual scores of 96%, 100%, and 100%, respectively, indicating the series is on the upswing despite Lincoln’s looming exit.

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Even as the series is soon to lose Rick Grimes, the loss may not be permanent: Kang hinted at Lincoln’s Rick Grimes return, which could come in the form of another television series or a potential movie as AMC has already declared their intentions to continue to expand the Walking Dead universe for at least another decade.

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.