The 11th and final season of AMC Network’s “The Walking Dead” took a ratings hit in its linear premiere compared to its most recent season opener nearly two years ago. But viewership was on par with the Season 10 finale in April, proving there’s life in the franchise yet on linear TV even as more people watch online via AMC’s streaming platform.
The premiere episode that debuted at 9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 22 delivered 3.2 million total viewers, including 1.6 million in the adults 25-54 demo, and 1.2 million in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen’s just-released live-plus-3 ratings. Last season’s debut episode in October 2019 garnered 4 million total viewers and a 1.44 rating in adults 18-49.
Cable ratings have dropped collectively since “The Walking Dead” bowed in 2010, but the massively popular Robert Kirkman and Image Comics flagship adaptation, which has spawned three spinoffs (two on-air, one incoming) and other projects in active development, remains a Top 10 cable drama among key adult demographics. The show stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan and features Laila Robins, Josh Hamilton, Margot Bingham and Michael James Shaw as season regulars.
The Season 11 premiere was available on AMC Plus one week ahead of its linear debut and grabbed the top launch viewership ever for the premium cabler’s streaming platform. Per an inside source with knowledge of the company, it drove the biggest week of new sign-ups for the streamer in 2021 and the episode has also been the top title on AMC Plus across all devices. Notably, the second episode of the season, which became available on AMC Plus last Sunday on the same day the first was being aired on TV, is pacing ahead of the premiere episode and is on track to break its viewership record.
For 12 consecutive years, the series has remained the No. 1 series on basic cable among adults 25-34 in live+3 viewing. Per our source, the linear ratings are essentially flat with the last episode of “The Walking Dead” in April.
“The Walking Dead” was a monster rating success back when SVOD wasn’t dominating over traditional television viewership — during the show’s fifth season, its live+same day viewership peaked with a staggering average of 14.4 million viewers per episode; 7.4 million of those fell into the coveted adults 18-49 demographic. It was ranked the top cable show in the key demo for eight of the past nine years. The show’s 10th season averaged just 3.4 million viewers in live-plus-same-day, with 1.1 million in the key demo, but even now in its 11th season, it still holds the rank of cable’s #1 drama and AMC is home to three of the top 10 cable dramas among the key demo, which include “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead” and “The Walking Dead: World Beyond.”
This 11th and final season of “The Walking Dead” spans 24 total episodes, which will run in three flights of eight episodes each through the end of 2022.