AMC Says ‘The Walking Dead’ Could Run For Decades

Ratings for AMC’s The Walking Dead have eroded in the last two seasons. The eighth season premiere was off 33 percent from last season’s premiere, and the most recent episode sported the worst ratings for the series in five years. It’s a slow but not insignificant trend downward not just for The Walking Dead but for its companion series, Fear the Walking Dead, which has fallen from 10 million viewers for its pilot episode to, at one point in season three, below 2 million overnight viewers.

We are on record here as suggesting that the best way for The Walking Dead to improve its ratings is to announce an end date. It doesn’t even have to be anytime soon, but an end date would give the series a sense of urgency, and it would give viewers a sense that there is an ending rather than an endless procession of wars and internal conflicts.

An end date, however, does not seem to be in the cards. The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has said, at various times, that the series could run on AMC from anywhere between 12 and 20 seasons. Now, AMC is suggesting that the series could run for decades, according to a conference call between CEO Josh Sapan and Wall Street analysts today.

“The use of the word ‘franchise,’ we don’t take lightly. It’s not a sloppy or casual word,” Sapan said. “We’ve studied the best. Some have been around 30, 40, 50 years. We have a chance for a lot of life in the franchise.”

There have been series that have been on the air for 15 to 20 years, but in almost all cases, they have been procedural types, like NCIS or Law & Order. Even Grey’s Anatomy, which has been on for 14 years, has a medical procedural element to it. Fifteen or 20 years is practically unheard of for a serialized drama like The Walking Dead, but it’s obviously not out of the question. The television series is still three or four seasons behind Robert Kirkman’s source material, and he continues to churn out issues. Kirkman has a planned ending (and it does not include Rick Grimes), but he has no planned ending date in mind.

Truthfully, as long as the ratings hold, AMC will probably continue to run the series as long as it can. While ratings are down some, it’s still the most popular show on basic cable by far. Though overnight ratings for the season premiere were down, it was still seen by a massive 15 million people after 3 days of DVR were accounted for (plus the millions who illegally download the series). It’s a massive worldwide hit, and with only one season of Game of Thrones remaining, it may be the only massive worldwide hit around come 2019.