The Walking Dead is still a big show, but it is getting less big. Once again, AMC's hit zombie series, which is based on the long-running Image Comics series of the same name, has encountered a sharp decline in ratings. So just how bad is it? The Walking Dead has now hit a new four-year low, with ratings worse than they have been since the show's third season.

According to Forbes, last Sunday's episode of Walking Dead brought in just 10.16 million viewers. That is the lowest ratings for The Walking Dead season 7 since the episode "Swear," which brought in 10.4 million viewers and was the sixth episode of the current season. More than 10 million viewers is still a big audience, but given how big the numbers have been for The Walking Dead in the past, these steep declines could signal that the show is past its prime.

The Walking Dead season 6 ended with a massive cliffhanger. Who was Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) going to kill? In order to get the answer to that question, fans turned out in droves to watch The Walking Dead season 7 premiere, which brought in a very impressive 17 million viewers. For whatever reason (or reasons), fans didn't feel the need to continue watching after seeing Negan's trusty bat Lucille bash some skulls in what some have argued was an overly gratuitous manner. What is also interesting to note is that the Negan storyline in The Walking Dead comics is one of the most beloved runs, but for some reason, it hasn't translated to TV. Or at least it appears that way. It is also possible that the zombie series has just grown tiresome for certain viewers and that AMC may just have to get used to declining ratings. It may not be a reflection on the quality at all. It could just be fatigue.

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Even though the series is continuing to show a very steady decline in ratings, that doesn't necessarily mean that AMC is going to bail on it anytime soon. 10 million viewers is still a big number in the modern cable landscape and the show is still coming out on top Sunday nights. It has even less competition now that Sunday Night Football is on hiatus. What's more is that the after show, Talking Dead, is still pulling in huge numbers, averaging around 4 million viewers. AMC may need to worry a bit if ratings continue to decline, but for the network to even consider ending The Walking Dead things would likely have to get much worse.

AMC still has a lot of faith in The Walking Dead even with this decline in ratings. The spin-off series Fear The Walking Dead is still soldiering on despite the fact that the ratings haven't really come close to matching the original series. It also doesn't seem to be enjoying the same level of feverish love from critics or fans. The next episode of The Walking Dead, "The Other Side," is set to air on AMC this Sunday. If the trend continues, don't be surprised if the series winds up dipping below 10 million viewers as we ramp up to The Walking Dead season 7 finale.

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Ryan Scott