Despite airing a very well-liked episode, this past Sunday's chapter in The Walking Dead set a new record low for viewership. Over the last few years, the hit series has been trending downward in the ratings department, with only slight upticks here or there before falling lower and lower in subsequence weeks. This has been the pattern and, despite any generally perceived quality on the part of critics and fans, things are only getting worse.

The numbers have been released and the most recent episode of The Walking Dead season 9, The Calm Before, earned just 4.15 million total viewers. It also earned a 1.5 rating in the key 18 to 49 demographic. The main point being that this episode, the 15th in the season overall, has set a new record for the least-watched episode in the show's history. The previous record was set not long ago with this season's 11th episode, which garnered 4.39 million viewers. This also represents roughly a 9 percent drop in viewership week-to-week when compared to the previous episode.

There are some caveats here. This only accounts for the live/same day numbers. Surely, quite a few people are streaming the episode elsewhere these days. However, it's still a generally bad sign that viewership continues to be in decline. Even if quite a few people are watching on their own time later, it would seem the overall audience for the drama series, which is based on Robert Kirkman's Image Comics series of the same name, has shrunk considerably. Does that mean AMC is worried? Not yet. But if this trend continues, one has to wonder at one point they will begin to experience a little fear.

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As it stands, The Walking Dead is still the most-watched show on Sunday nights, but its lead is shrinking. The after show, Talking Dead, also remains relatively popular, with 1 million viewers for last week's installment. What's so interesting about this drop in particular is that the critical and fan response to The Calm Before has been wonderful, with many calling it one of the best episodes of the show in years. But after nearly a decade, it may not be an issue of quality. Not to mention that it's difficult to regain viewers once they've hopped off the train.

Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes departed this season, but he'll return in a trilogy of movies at a later date. Lauren Cohan's Maggie is gone (at least for now) and Danai Gurira is exiting as Michonne next season. Meanwhile, Fear the Walking Dead is still going on and the network has more plans for further spin-offs, in addition to the movies. Will those lofty plans continue of ratings continue to fall for the flagship series? Or is the hope that a new show/movie can win back some former viewers? Time will tell. The Walking Dead season 9 finale airs this Sunday on AMC. This news was previously reported by TV By the Numbers.

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Ryan Scott