The Walking Dead, AMC's hit zombie drama and one of TV's most popular shows, took a major ratings hit with its Season 8 premiere on Sunday.
"Mercy," which was also the show's 100th episode, came in with 11.4 million total viewers and a 5.0 rating in the key 18-49 demographic, which is the lowest viewership for a Walking Dead season premiere since the third season debuted, according to Variety. That's a 40 percent decline in the key demo from the Season 7 premiere, which had the "Who'd Negan kill?" cliffhanger resolution to help make it a must-watch for fans. The show's premiere ratings peaked with the Season 5 debut, which drew more than 17 million viewers.
So, does this spell trouble for what once felt like an unstoppable ratings hit? Definitely not at this point. Yes, the ratings are down, but they're still pretty great, especially for a basic cable series, and the show still has time to build the numbers back up through things like the traditionally action-packed midseason finale later this year. Plus, the total viewers will go up as fans who were busy watching football check in with their DVRs throughout the week.
Even if that doesn't happen, though, The Walking Dead remains a juggernaut. It's the top show on television in the key demographic, outpacing other broadcast hits like The Big Bang Theory and This Is Us. That means advertisers, and that means money. Now, if the numbers continue to slip, this conversation might have to be revisited. At the moment, though, you probably shouldn't worry too much about The Walking Dead.