In the TV industry, the 18-49 demographic is the key indicator of viewership preferences and trends. The most popular program of 2017 for that demo? It should come as no surprise: AMC’s The Walking Dead, the hit zombie drama nabbing its sixth year in a row on top.
The Walking Dead was behind its standard viewership pace early in season 8; the October premiere, which was the show’s 100th episode, drew its lowest ratings since the opener of season 3, while the 2016 opener of season 7 had been the second most-watched TWD premiere ever. This past midseason finale was its lowest-rated in six years as well.
And yet this year the show earned a 7.0 rating in the key demographic, and 9.02 million viewers on average. Adweek reports the next closest competing program was NBC’s Sunday Night Football, which averaged a 6.4 rating and 8.22 million viewers. Coming in third was HBO’s Game of Thrones, which averaged a 6.2 rating and 8.02 million viewers. Rounding out the top six: This Is Us (5.1 rating, 6.60 million viewers), The Big Bang Theory (4.6, 5.91 million), and Thursday Night Football (4.5, 5.83 million). Despite struggles, ESPN remains a dominant force in the cable TV market. The Worldwide Leader remains the top choice for the 18-49 demographic, averaging 769,000 prime-time viewers.
In 2017, again per Adweek, more than 500 scripted and 750 unscripted shows aired. Though hype for The Walking Dead has diminished in recent years, it remains the clear 18-49 leader. It'll be back on TV for the second half of season 8 on Feb. 25, 2018.