The winter finale of The Walking Dead saw the highest-rated show on television get a real bite taken out of it on a very competitive Sunday night – at least compared to the last four years
With 10.58 million total viewers, the Season 7 90-minute “Hearts Still Beating” episode was basically even with TWD’s December 4 one-hour show. However, it was the lowest any TWD winter finale has done since 2012 and down 24% from the one-hour Season 6 winter finale of November 29 last year – which was the second most watched midseason ender in the history of the AMC blockbuster based on Robert Kirkman’s comics.
The “Start To Finish” episode had a 7.0 rating among adults 18-49s while “Hearts Still Beating” took a 27% demo fall to a 5.1 result –which is up 4% from last week. While TWD has tackled Sunday Night Football on a number of occasions over the past few seasons, December 11 was not one of them. At 7.7 the fast affiliates of the New York Giants 10-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys was a season high for SNF. Later numbers brought the dramatic game’s total viewership to a crushing 25.6 million. AKA – the best any primetime NFL game has done on any network this season so far and the best Week 14 audience the NFL has had since 1989.
After kicking off with near record ratings and the much anticipated revelation of who of the core characters would die at Negan’s barbwire wrapped bat, TWD has hit a series of lows over the past several episodes in Live + Same Day. Like many a cabler and increasingly broadcasters, AMC loves the big numbers that even a declining TWD deliver but put their powder in Live + 3 results – likely even more so on nights when they went longer than usual and clashed with one of the biggest regular season NFL games of the last 10 years.
As an example, the December 4 “Sing Me A Song” episode went up 42% in L+3 viewership to 15 million viewers from its L+SD results, which was actually a 5% bop up from the delayed viewing results of the week before. In the key demo, where TWD casts a long shadow, that penultimate episode of 2016 went up 47% in L+3 to 9.4 million viewers. That was pretty steady with the “Swear” episode L+3 demo rating, lifting 6%.
All of which puts more focus than usual on the February 12 return of part 2 of TWD Season 7.