AMC's The Walking Dead has long been one of the top-rated shows in all of television, but after the controversial events of the Season 6 finale, which marked the introduction of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and brought the deaths of Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), the ratings have started to slip considerably. Last month, The Walking Dead Season 8 mid-season finale suffered the second-lowest ratings for a fall finale in show history, behind the Season 2 fall finale, although, one producer doesn't think it's a reflection of the show losing popularity. Executive producer David Alpert, who serves as the CEO of Robert Kirkman's Skybound company, revealed in a new interview that the decline in ratings is due to a decline in "urgency" to watch TV programs on the night they premiere.
"I don't think in any way the brand has lost its relevance in general, I think we're just seeing a decline in urgency across all media to consume something at a specific time."
While the executive producer certainly could be right, there is no question that the ratings have been in decline, even while the show has made some of its most bold choices to date. The Season 8 fall finale featured one of the biggest twists in the show's history to date, revealing that Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) was bit by a zombie and he will be killed off for good in the mid-season premiere next month. The move came as quite a shock to fans, since Carl is still alive in The Walking Dead comics, but the show has often diverged from the books in the past.
During a late November episode, Walking Dead ratings slipped to a six-year low, with this season delving into the popular All Out War story line from the comics, which was the comics' first ever two-volume story that followed Negan and his Saviors going to war with a new coalition that includes Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his people at the Alexandria Safe-Zone, Hilltop Colony lead by Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and The Kingdom lead by King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). There were no deaths of any major characters throughout the All Out War comics, so it's possible that the show could try to pull off another huge surprise twist to try and get their ratings up by the end of this season. While David Alpert wouldn't say more about the ratings, he did tease that he wants to turn Skybound into the next Marvel or Pixar, using The Walking Dead as a base to build more programs on top of.
"The ability to connect digitally with our fans to find out what they want and serve them content from great creators, media agnostic, it's not a little idea, it's a huge idea. We could be the media company for the new millennium."
The show has also taken another bold creative step by announcing that Lennie James' Morgan will be The Walking Dead crossover character, who is transitioning to Season 4 of Fear the Walking Dead, which will be set in Austin, Texas. Many fans had assumed the crossover character would be Michael Cudlitz's Abraham Ford, since, in the comics, he actually hails from Austin, Texas, but that isn't the case. Fear the Walking Dead is still set several years before the events of The Walking Dead. You can head over to Variety for their entire podcast interview with David Alpert.