AMC chief Sarah Barnett says the network's plans for a wide-ranging Walking Dead Universe won't be deterred by the "decline" in The Walking Dead's rating numbers. Now in its tenth season, the zombie drama's late November midseason finale, "The World Before," marked a series low in live viewing, pulling in 3.21 million total viewers and a 1.02 rating in the key 18-49 demographic. Despite a drop from peak era Walking Dead — its Season 5 premiere in 2014 reached a series-high in ratings when 17.29 million viewers tuned into "No Sanctuary" — the show is often the highest-rated scripted series on cable.
"With AMC, it's been a very ratings-driven network — to great success. The Walking Dead remains, for all of its much-talked-about decline, by far the biggest show in ad-supported [cable]," Barnett said when interviewed by The Los Angeles Times. "Our researchers, I believe, have not just a good or bad day but a good or bad week emotionally based on what news they have to deliver about ratings. But of course we do have a bunch of other inputs that affect that as well. I think there’s a threshold that, if we go below that, makes it hard to sustain a show. But there is a sort of murky middle ground."
In the week of Nov. 11, Season 10 Episode 6, "Bonds," was that week's highest-rated cable show with the largest audience for a scripted series, second overall only to live sports programming. The network has set a high level of "ambition" for TWD Universe, and the high bar, Barnett said, is that "there are endless stories to be told in this universe."
"Obviously, the narrative that continues to be told is one of decline around The Walking Dead numbers, and that’s inevitable," she said. "It’s become a test case for fragmentation. Everything has declined. I come back to the fact that you're never going to see audiences like the one we currently have for The Walking Dead in measurable television."
Season 10 of The Walking Dead resumes with new episodes Sunday, Feb. 23, ahead of the April 12 premiere of The Walking Dead: World Beyond. The sixth season of Fear the Walking Dead follows this summer on AMC, as part of the brand's second decade that will see Walking Dead programming air for more than 40 Sundays throughout the year. For more TWD intel, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.