The people who watched The Walking Dead's Season 9 premiere liked it, which is good news for AMC. The bad news, though, is that far fewer people watched it than anyone could have expected. According to Deadline, Sunday's premiere was the lowest-rated premiere for the mega-hit horror drama since the Season 1 premiere in 2010, with 6.1 million viewers tuning in to see the start of Andrew Lincoln's final run of episodes as Rick Grimes. That's down 47 percent from last year's Season 8 premiere, which was watched live by 11.4 million viewers, and down about 11 million total viewers from the cliffhanger-resolving Season 7 premiere. It's also down nearly 2 million viewers from April's Season 8 finale. The Season 9 premiere snagged a 2.5 rating in the 18-49 demographic, the lowest rating for a premiere in the demo in the show's history.
To be fair, it's still one of the biggest shows on television, behind only This Is Us in key demo ratings. And it typically performs well in delayed viewing. The Live+3 and Live+7 numbers will provide a fuller portrait of how the premiere actually did. Plus, AMC made the premiere available 24 hours ahead of its time slot premiere on its AMC Premiere streaming service, and Deadline reports that the streaming service had its biggest ever day in sign-ups on Oct. 6, the day prior to the premiere. AMC doesn't release numbers for the streaming service, though, so we don't know for sure how many people watched it there.
Still, it seems unlikely that The Walking Dead will ever stop the bleeding this far into the series' run. The best new showrunner Angela Kang can do is retain the not inconsequential number of fans who are still invested, especially after Andrew Lincoln's exit later this season.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.