Though ratings for its monster hit The Walking Dead have been flagging in its ninth season, AMC Networks confirmed that it is working on a third series based on its zombie apocalypse universe.
Speaking on the company’s fourth quarter earnings call with analysts, AMC CEO Josh Sapan said “next stage plans” around the new series have begun to take place under Walking Dead chief content officer Scott Gimple and the company has been “overwhelmed” with potential partners for the show.
Sapan said AMC believes The Walking Dead “is some of today’s most valuable intellectual property on any screen anywhere.”
AMC had been running a second zombie series, Fear the Walking Dead. And when Walking Dead co-star Andrew Lincoln left the show last year, AMC said he would be featured in a series of Walking Dead movies that would appear on AMC Network.
Analysts have been concerned about AMC’s dependence on revenue generated by The Walking Dead as the series loses steam. But AMC Networks chief operating officer Ed Carroll said the franchise remains strong.
Carroll said “Series Three” under the Walking Dead banner series is now in “active development.
He added it is “not yet at a stage where we’ll be announcing its plans to premiere, but we have hired creative people that have pitched story outlines. We feel very good about the development of that series.”
Carroll would not comment about potential partners for the show, or its ancillary windows. Subscription video on demand rights for Fear the Walking Dead, for example, were sold to Hulu even before the show went on the air.
“There’s a healthy appetite for it and we’ve had discussions with a number of different players in the space, Carroll said.
Carroll noted that The Walking Dead continues to be the top-rated show on cable, with an audience that more than doubles the No. 2 show. It is also the second-biggest drama on all of TV, behind only NBC’s This Is Us.
“It’s in season nine, so that is unprecedented,” said.
And though ratings are down substantially during the second half of season eight, “the performance of the first three episodes that have aired in February is actually a bit ahead of our estimates. And I would say generally we are well aware that when a show has been around for nine years, you would expect the viewership to be declining. But I think we’ve managed that and managed that well,” he said.
Eventually, the original, flagship Walking Dead series will go off AMC Networks. When that happens, “I think that will have more of an impact on revenue than it will on AOI [adjusted operating income] because generally with shows such as this, expenses go up as the seasons continue and viewership declines. That’s just a general pattern of any show that’s been around for as long as The Walking Dead has,” Carroll told the analysts, "But what’s so interesting about this, and it’s never been seen before, it’s still the No. 1 show on cable by such a wide margin in season nine.”