TRACKING THE WALKING DEAD PART 1/4
AMC’s “The Walking Dead” – possibly the most popular zombie series of all time – has an impressive fan base, taking into account the total number of file sharers worldwide over time.
Over the span of a year (July 1 to June 30), between 50 and 54 million fans shared episodes of AMC's "The Walking Dead" from each season. Global chart rankings reinforce this popularity, with TWD always positioned near the top among the most popular and shared series – this despite having to fend off competitors to maintain global popularity. Starting with Season 3, TWD consistently grabbed spot No. 2 over a 12-month period (July 1 to June 30). During release windows, however, the zombie series always climbed to the top. Nevertheless, not all seasons received the same attention among viewers – something that becomes clear when looking at the numbers of fans sharing TWD episodes during release windows. The number of file sharers even decreased between seasons 3 and 5 – from 38.87 to 36.06 million, respectively. But with season 6, the show kicked off another upward trend. At the release of season 7, a total of 39.12 million fans shared episodes from the TWD – a new record number post-season 3.
DID MORE CAPTIVATING STORY-TELLING INFECT A BROADER FAN BASE?
To analyze storytelling quality for each season, we had a look at how many P2P users shared individual episodes on the day of their official release. The differences between individual episodes and story-arc development from one episode to the next are quite significant across each season. To showcase just how different the popularity of the narratives are, we’ve summarized the trends for seasons 3, 5 and 7:
NOW THAT’S WHAT'S CALLED A SUSPENSE CURVE
Although it scored lower than the seasons that followed, Season 3 generated the most steady growth in "The Walking Dead" TV show popularity. The last two episodes before the (mid-) season finale, in particular, were shared by many more file sharers than previous episodes in this season, suggesting that the quality of the storytelling kept people in suspense for the continuation of the season.
PREMIERE STARTS WELL – STEADY “MID-PERFORMANCE” – DISAPPOINTING ENDING
Starting off well, but stumbling after the second episode, “Strangers,” Season 5 recovered slightly before the mid-season finale with the release of Episode 8, “Coda.” The episodes that followed, however, remained relatively stable before facing a significant drop during the last two episode releases: Whereas the previous episodes had been shared by roughly 1 million fans on the days of their release, only 700,000 eagerly awaited Episode 15, “Try,” and 16, “Conquer.”
A CONSISTENTLY DECLINING SUSPENSE CURVE – UNTIL THE LAST EPISODE
When comparing the fan bases of "The Walking Dead" seasons at their respective release dates, a higher number of TWD fans were waiting for Season 7 than were waiting for Season 3. Nevertheless, the season’s audience seemed to have lost interest from one episode to the next, with the number of file sharers decreasing over the course of Season 7 – quite the opposite of season 3. Whereas an average of between 1 and 1.3 million file sharers were waiting for a new episode release at the beginning of Season 7, especially after the latest mid-season break, numbers remained around 770,000 to 800,000. Only the last episode of the season, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life,” was able to reanimate fans – getting back closer to past TWD glory days with its 893,000 file sharers.
Looking for more details after this binge of information? So check out our analysis focusing on "The Walking Dead" popularity in the U.S. fan base market.
LONG-TERM FANS SEEM TO LOSE INTEREST IN LATER EPISODES
EARLY ADOPTERS AND LOYAL FANS:
We define early adopters as people who have been fans from the very beginning who are always eager for new episode releases. To understand long-term fan-base development, we looked at the performance of seasons as they were being released. Similar to overall numbers, there was a downward trend between seasons 3 and 5 – from 32.8 to 31.15 million, respectively. Despite the slight increase in numbers for seasons 6 and 7, the early adopter fan base, with 31.9 million users, was still lower when compared to seasons 3 and 4.
LATE ADOPTERS AND THE NEWLY INFECTED:
Late adopters began catching up with Season 1 and watching earlier seasons, well after TWD had already infected a swarming, loyal fan base of viewers.
While looking for these new converts, we noticed that catch-up phases during the release window of a given season – when a new fan base emerges and watches all the way through, beginning with Season 1 – followed a certain pattern. Unsurprisingly, the premiere of each season (with the exception of Episode 2, Season 7) was the most popular among file sharers. But does this indicate that a surge of catch-up activity occurs right after the most popular episode is broadcasted? Our data suggests not.
Looking more closely at the trend reports and the episode-activity breakdown, we notice that global catch-up activity during release windows does not take place:
during the mid-season break;
after broadcasting the most shared episode of each season, or
during the second part of each season, after the mid-season break.
Our analysis observed a pattern that cropped up in every season: excitement among file sharers generated around Episodes 2 and 4. These episodes prompted catch-up viewing numbers that produced the highest peaks for P2P users sharing Season 1.
A SATURATED ZOMBIE FAN BASE MARKET
The most interesting fact regarding the number of viewers catching up on Season 1 can be seen when looking at the season-to-season development. The total number of file sharers interested in Season 1 sank during the release windows of each further installment, as well as during the 12-month period overall. There appears to be a decreasing number of new fans worldwide, raising the question of whether the global zombie fan base is now immune to new releases in the genre. The following infographic illustrates the development of Season 1 catch-ups during the release windows of seasons 3 and 7, as well as the Season 3 and Season 7 trend lines.
SO, WHAT DID WE LEARN FROM FILE SHARING DATA ON AMC’S “THE WALKING DEAD”?
Coming in at No. 2, "The Walking Dead" remains one of the most popular series worldwide
A high number of late adopters of TWD are still in the catch-up phase (not yet reached the latest season)
The number of fans has been increasing parallel to the increase in number of episodes
Some previous, loyal fans stumbled along the way and no longer catch the latest releases
The varying storytelling approaches in different seasons performed disparately
Want to keep moving through the numerical breakdown of “The Walking Dead”? Then discover the "Top Rankings"!
Definition: The file sharing data is based on number of unique file sharers: How many peers (file sharers) shared at least one file of 'The Walking Dead' within a certain time period?