Viewing figures for The Walking Dead have plummeted in the US since the opening episode of Season Seven.
The premiere debuted to 17.1 million people, and became the second-highest rated episode in the show’s history.
Since then, the number of Walking Dead viewers has declined. The fifth episode of the season, which aired last week, drew less than 11 million viewers.
It’s the first time the show has had less than 11 million viewers since Season Three, according to Comicbook.com.
The reason for the decline is unclear but one theory is that fans are not happy with the format of the season, with each episode jumping to a different story and set of characters.
The AMC zombie drama’s all time high viewing figures were recorded after the Season Five premiere – which stands as the show’s biggest overnight rating with 17.3 million viewers and an 8.8 rating.
The opening episode of Season Seven was criticised by a US TV watchdog group for its “graphically violent” and “brutally explicit” content.
But director Greg Nicotero defended the episode and said it was important to stay true to the comic.
He added: “What struck me about [the comic] was it was horrifically graphic and senseless and brutal. In this instance, we felt that it was important to launch us into this season by showing the extent of what Negan is capable of doing. It’s really unfortunate that people want to take a negative spin on it because, as far as I’m concerned, I’m dedicated to watching a show because I want to see where the story’s going to go next.”
Spoiler alert: the first episode of season seven, titled ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’, revealed the deaths of characters Glenn Rhee (played by Steven Yeun) and Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz).
It was also recently confirmed that The Walking Dead has been renewed for an eighth season. Season Eight will premiere in late 2017, kicking off with the show’s 100th episode.