The latest season of “The Walking Dead” has stumbled, zombie-like, to a rocky start — among both TV viewers and internet pirates.
Global piracy of Sunday’s premiere of “Walking Dead” season 8 was 42% lower than season 7 last year, comparing the one-day period after the official first airing on AMC, according to piracy-tracking firm Tecxipio. That comes as the show notched its lowest-rated premiere in five years in the U.S.
While studios and networks would normally welcome drops in piracy activity, it also potentially reflects “The Walking Dead”‘s declining popularity.
“The Walking Dead” season 8 premiere episode, “Mercy,” was illegally downloaded by 774,685 users worldwide, compared with 1.33 million copies poached for the last season’s debut, Tecxipio’s analysis found. The number of digital pirates accessing the episode in the top two countries historically for “Walking Dead” piracy — the U.S. and Brazil — declined by nearly 50% each, according to Tecxipio.
There’s a caveat with Tecxipio’s numbers: The firm measures only peer-to-peer file-sharing networks that use the BitTorrent protocol — excluding streaming-video piracy sites, which represent a growing amount of piracy activity.
Also note that as part of an effort to limit the impact of piracy of the show, Fox Networks Group releases “The Walking Dead” in 125 countries less than 24 hours after the U.S. debut on AMC. Fox and AMC have teamed on the global simultaneous release of the show since 2010.
In addition, AMC also has embedded digital watermarks into episodes of “Walking Dead”and its other original series to help trace the source of pirated copies that wind up circulating online.
For what it’s worth, “Walking Dead” remains one of the hottest primetime shows on social media. For the week ended Oct. 22, the show was the No. 1 non-sports TV show on Facebook and Twitter, according to Nielsen Social, registering 1.51 million unique users who engaged in 2.54 million interactions.