Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In this week’s episode, Variety’s co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein talks with David Alpert, CEO of Skybound Entertainment. While involved in a broad range of projects across media ranging from comic books to virtual reality, Skybound is best known as the production company behind “The Walking Dead.”
Asked how he felt about the steep fall-off in the ratings for the recently concluded season of the hit AMC series, Alpert expressed confidence in the vitality of his zombie franchise. He believes the audience that any given episode delivers the night it airs is an increasingly misleading metric for gauging the overall health of “TWD.”
“I don’t think in any way the brand has lost its relevance in general,” he said. “I think we’re just seeing a decline in urgency across all media to consume something at a specific time.”
Together with his Skybound co-founder Robert Kirkman, Alpert is betting that what will distinguish their company from the competition is using the “TWD” template to breed another generation of artists empowered to translate intellectual property across multiple media. To avoid the misfires too many content companies suffer along that path, Skybound envisions digital distribution connecting creators and fans in a way that will redefine entertainment and make good on Alpert’s ambitions to turn Skybound into the next Marvel or Pixar.
“The ability to connect digitally with our fans to find out what they want and serve them content from great creators, media agnostic — it’s not a little idea, it’s a huge idea,” Alpert said. “We could be the media company for the new millennium.”
Even Superfight, a social card game Skybound has helped turn into a phenomenon, is being developed to eventually be adapted into a TV series or movie. “In a world where Lego is an amazing movie, this is something you could do similarly,” Alpert said.
He also offered the inside scoop on what motivated Skybound to move from AMC to Amazon for an overall deal: Sharon Tal Yguado, Amazon Studios’ head of scripted programming, who worked with Skybound to turn “TWD” into a global juggernaut while she was still at Fox International Channels, which distributed the series all over the world.
While he also cited Amazon’s renewed interest in trying series that are broader than the prestige fare like “Transparent” that has succeeded for the streaming service to date, Yguado was also key to Skybound’s decision to come aboard. “It’s not just the fact that Amazon is one of the dominant companies on the planet, although it doesn’t hurt,” Alpert said. “It’s that, coupled with the fact that there’s a trusted partner there that made it possible for us to grow.”
You can listen to this week’s podcast here: