AMC will serve up another helping of “Walking Dead,” launching a third series that tells the story of survivors in a world where a plague turns most of the civilized world into flesh-eating zombies.
The new drama, which is as yet untitled, will stand alongside two other series in the franchise – “The Walking Dead” and “Fear the Walking Dead” – and allow the cable network to feature content from a growing “universe” of “Walking Dead” stories for the bulk of the year, according to executives from AMC Networks, the outlet’s parent company. The new series will debut on AMC in 2020.
“This allows us to come to the marketplace with completely uninterrupted ‘Walking Dead’ universe content from post-Super Bowl Sunday to Thanksgiving,” says Scott Collins, president of ad sales for AMC Networks, in an interview.
The new series will be built around two young female protagonists, says Sarah Barnett, the president of the company’s entertainment networks, who noted that some of the young women portrayed on the flagship series in the group in recent episodes “have resonated” strongly with audiences. She declined to elaborate, noting that Scott Gimple, chief content officer for the “Dead” franchise, was eager to keep details to a minimum.
AMC is betting that a third series will have appeal at a time when ratings for some “Walking Dead” broadcasts have winnowed – a dynamic that is not atypical for a program that has been on the air since the fall of 2010, but is still concerning. “We believe in the underlying vitality of the ‘Walking Dead” universe,” says Barnett. “’Walking Dead’ itself continues to be the number-one show by some margin,” she adds. “This show just continues to be an incredible boon for us. It’s something another cable or streaming network would actually kill for.” Other than news and sports programs, episodes of “The Walking Dead” represented many of the most-watched broadcasts on cable in the current TV season.
There’s good reason to keep the franchise going. “The Walking Dead” continues to be one of the most expensive programs for advertisers, according to Variety’s annual survey of primetime ad prices. A package of ads in “Dead” had an average cost of around $415,000 this season, according to media buyers. On TV, only NFL football broadcasts cost more. “Walking Dead” and “Fear the Walking Dead” attract some of the nation’s most prominent advertisers, according to ad-spending tracker Kantar, including Apple. American Express, T-Mobile and Microsoft.
A third series might help bring new ad money to the franchise as it matures. “Walking Dead” and “Fear The Walking Dead” captured $240.2 million in ad revenue in 2018, according to Kantar Media.. But that figure is down about 8.4% from the $262.1 million the two series captured in advertising in 2017.
The new series will be co-created by Gimple, and Matt Negrete, who has been a writer and producer on “The Walking Dead” for the past five seasons and who will serve as showrunner. Produced by AMC Studios, the series will begin production on 10 episodes this summer in Virginia.