As #"The Walking Dead" approaches the midpoint of its 7th season this Sunday, we can look forward to more killings by Negan, the bat-wielding bad guy played by actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Unfortunately, the characters of this zombie-laden hit series may not be the only ones dying out there - "The Walking Dead" itself is beginning to show signs of weakness and may be close to its own demise.

It's not all bad news

After viewership boomed during the October 23rd season premiere, where Negan's victims (including everyone’s fave Glenn (played by actor Steven Yeun) were revealed, the show’s ratings have been steady declining.

An impressive 21.5 million viewers — its 2nd largest total yet — tuned in for the premiere's cliffhanger reveal (when the seven day delayed viewing numbers were counted). But in the weeks that followed the show lost over five million viewers, or a quarter of its overall audience. In the direction it's headed, "The Walking Dead" may have its lowest-rated season since 2013.

Yet "The Walking Dead" remains the number one rated show on television (either broadcast or cable) among young adults. Not just that, but the ratings drop is also consistent with decline we’ve seen in many other big TV hits, like Fox's "Empire" (down 27% this season)and ABC’s "How to Get Away With Murder" (also down 27%). Actually, about 70% of non-first-run shows have double digit ratings drops and even the NFL's ratings have taken a nosedive.

Still, it doesn't look good

But unlike basic-cable rivals such as FX, which have an ever-growing assortment of critical darling series to rely on, the AMC network is almost entirely dependent on this one huge hit - a hit that airs only 16 episodes each year, one might add. And it’s for that very reason that a double-digit ratings decline is so worrisome.

With viewership dropping at a startling pace, critics are becoming more and more pessimistic about the probability of AMC maintaining "The Walking Dead's" momentum. Plus, newer series, such as “Feed the Beast,” “Preacher,” and “Halt and Catch Fire,” (all major ratings losers) just haven’t resonated with critics or viewers the same way that "The Walking Dead," "Breaking Bad," or "Mad Men" did.

Why is the show dying?

This all begs the question, why now? Why is this fan fave showing such a steady decline? Not to mention its spinoff, “Fear the Walking Dead” is dying even faster. There are many theories;

  • T.V. Show ratings decline naturally as they age.
  • They keep killing everyone good (Glenn, no!).
  • Twitter fans hate Negan with a passion.
  • Too much weird, unnecessary violence.

That being said, the show’s lasting popularity is still very impressive. According to AMC, digital viewership has gone up almost 50% from last season (which equals a combined 13 million views), though it’s true that those views generate fewer dollars in ad revenue. Still, there's no clear signals that the show will be ending anytime soon.

However big the ratings decline, the fact that The Walking Dead, a cable drama of 7 seasons, is on its 5th consecutive year as number one is extraordinary. And according to a statement from AMC’s president Charlie Collier, "The Walking Dead" has never been more alive."

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