Did ‘The Walking Dead’ help AMC renew ‘Halt and Catch Fire’?

“Halt and Catch Fire” will be back for a third season.

AMC once again gave a belated renewal to its drama about the early days of personal computing and the internet, ordering a third season of the critically-acclaimed but terribly-rated series. The show’s second season concluded two months ago with its future in limbo (season 2 was ordered only a few weeks after season 1 ended); I responded with an article headlined, “Hey, AMC: Quit screwing around and renew ‘Halt and Catch Fire.'”

The screwing around has concluded, and we’ll get at least one more season of Kerry Bishé, Mackenzie Davis, Scoot McNairy and Lee Pace navigating the ’80s version of life online, in a show that massively improved from its first year to its second.

Given the low ratings, and that basic cable channels can’t as easily carry shows few people are watching in the way that an HBO or Showtime can, I got on the phone for a few minutes with AMC’s president of original programming and development Joel Stillerman to discuss how they came to this decision.

This is a wonderful show, but the ratings haven’t been there. Why did you decide to stick with it?

Joel Stillerman: We decided to stick with it primarily because we love the story, and we think it’s a show that has a lot of life left in it. These things are always complicated, and the ratings play a part, but they’re far from the entire story. If we see something that we truly love, and we see the talent and the momentum behind it that give us the confidence to move forward, we’re all in.

Can you expand on that a little? I know there are some business thingsyou can’t talk about, but for the average viewer who doesn’t know the ins and outs, what are the other factors besides the number of eyeballs on Sunday night?

Joel Stillerman: Generally speaking, we’ve gotten pretty good – if I can toot our own horn a little bit – at setting shows up through ownership of that content, and all the things we’ve learned in our journey to become a full-fledged studio, so shows don’t require massive ratings to be able to move forward. It’s the reason why, I don’t mean to be glib, we started AMC Studios. It’s a better mousetrap for television. We’re not singularly beholden to ratings anymore, and that’s exactly the reason why we did that. We didn’t want to have just a single-metric system.

Does the fact that you have some huge hits in the “Walking Dead” series give you a little more latitude to keep carrying a show like this, or is that not a factor in this decision?

Joel Stillerman: Look, everything would be harder if we didn’t have things that weren’t doing some of the heavy lifting that a show like “The Walking Dead” is. It would be crazy to think all of those things don’t roll up into a decision like this. But luckily, we have it, and it certainly is part of the decision-making process.

Finally, I think back to “Rubicon,” which I liked a lot, had really low ratings, but which didn’t get a second season, let alone a third like “Halt” is getting. How is this situation different from the one you made back then?

Joel Stillerman: Everything is different from the “Rubicon days. We’re kindred souls; I loved that show, too. That was pre the advent of those non-linear platforms, we didn’t own the show. Really, it was an entirely different set of metrics that we were dealing with on “Rubicon.” And it’s a great example for how far we’ve come that we can make a decision like this on “Halt and Catch Fire,” and we simply couldn’t on “Rubicon.” It was also, to your point, pre-“Walking Dead.” Different business.