The New National Pastime?

By JakeElman
Dec. 02, 2014

After beating NBC's Sunday Night Football five times in the past eight weeks, has AMC's The Walking Dead become America's new pastime?

According to the ratings, it seems more people would rather watch Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) than Sunday Night Football (AMC)

Written by Jake Elman


Carrie Underwood was right about one thing - we've been waiting all day for Sunday night. Carrie Underwood was wrong, though - people haven't been waiting all day for NBC's Sunday Night Football. 

Rather, they're waiting all day for AMC's The Walking Dead, the hit zombie thriller that is currently in its fifth season. Created by Robert KIrkman as a graphic novel in 2003, The Walking Dead follows around a group of surviors trying to fend off not only a virus that has decimated a majority of the world's population and turned them into zombies, but also humans who are, in the words of protagonist Rick Grimes, too far gone. It's a fantastic show, and what a lot of people - including myself - like about it is that you come to learn and love the characters; it's a story driven show, not one all about who can kill the most zombies.

A lot of people may pass The Walking Dead as just another zombie show, but it's become more than that. According to Entertainment Weekly, Sunday’s hour delivered 14.8 million viewers and an incredible 9.6 adults 18-49 rating, which is up 23 percent from last year’s winter finale (that saw hated villain Philip 'The Governor' Blake make his final stand against the main characters) and marks the highest-rated midseason finale in the show’s history.

Overall, The Walking Dead is up about 13 percent from this point last year, and their 'post game show' Talking Dead also had its highest-rated mid-season finale, with 6.6 million viewers and 4.2 million adults 18-49. If you're not sold yet, just look at the TV ratings for each episode so far.

That's five episodes with 14 million viewers, and I'd be willing to count 5X3, 'Four Walls and a Roof', as the sixth. Since season 5 started on October 12th, they've beaten the NFL five times in eight weeks in terms of ratings. It seemed like once upon a time, there was nothing that could defeat the NFL on Sunday Night. Last year, the NFL lost only twice to The Walking Dead, so to be be beaten nearly three times as much is an insane shift in balance. 

Now, one could make the very fair argument that some of the Sunday Night Football games have been flat out awful this year. After two very close games to start off the year (the Colts lost by seven to the Broncos in week one, and the Bears bested San Francisco by eight in week two), only one game since has ended in a one score differential - that being the November 23rd Cowboys-Giants game, one of the only games to beat TWD in ratings. 

Well, I think I know one reason why that may be. If only every game had some kind of magical play like that...

Regardless, you don't beat Sunday Night Football five times in eight attempts by accident. Do you think Sunday Night Football lost in ratings because the games weren't up to par, The Walking Dead was just too good, or a mixture of both? Make sure to vote on the poll below, and if you want to talk more sports, you can tweet me at @JakeElman and give your thoughts.