AMC Defends 'The Walking Dead's Falling Ratings

AMC is "pleased with" The Walking Dead despite weaker ratings posted by season 8, AMC CFO Sean Sullivan said during a webcast investor conference (via THR).

AMC management is "pleased with the franchise," Sullivan said, pointing out the long-running zombie saga has maintained "its dominant position."

Sullivan then pointed to the company's strong financial performance, saying AMC has "absorbed the ratings moderation of the show."

On AMC's original programming strategy in general, Sullivan admitted "it's tough to stand out," but said management is happy that "creatively, the team has done a great job."

AMC's franchise, inspired by Robert Kirkman's comic book series, currently consists of flagship zombie drama The Walking Dead and three-year-old spinoff Fear The Walking Dead.

The two series crossed paths for the first time in April when longtime Walking Dead player Morgan Jones (Lennie James) crossed over to Fear at the start of season 4, joining its less-cramped cast.

The Walking Dead ended season 8 in April just shy of eight million viewers with season finale 'Wrath' bringing in 7.92 million viewers. The episode brought an end to the long-running conflict between Rick Grimes' band of survivors and Negan's Saviors, who had instigated the strife midway through season 6 in 2015.

In March, The Walking Dead posted its lowest ratings since its first season in 2010, bringing in just a 2.9 rating in adults 18—49 and 6.8 million viewers in Nielsen Live+Same Day numbers with episode 8x10, 'The Lost and the Plunderers.'

That episode immediately followed the mid-season premiere, 'Honor,' which controversially killed off longtime survivor Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) after a two months-long cliffhanger where the teen revealed he had fallen victim to an incurable walker bite.

Ratings are at risk of dropping yet again after the looming exit of leading man Andrew Lincoln, who will be bowing out of the series after eight years sometime in the upcoming ninth season.

Lincoln has just six more episodes before his departure and will reportedly be "phased out" from the series, as will longtime co-star Lauren Cohan, who joined the series in season 2 in 2011.

Some have speculated Lincoln's departure may be tied to the loss of the "engine" driving his character that came when season 8 decided to kill Carl, who in the books is poised to one day relieve Rick Grimes as leader.

"Searching for his wife and his son were the two engines that kept this man alive at the beginning of the show eight years," Lincoln told ComicBook.com in April.

"To lose the second engine that fueled him, at this point, certainly did feel, to me personally, not just the end of a chapter but a book, really."

6comments

A subset of the viewership have since threatened to stop watching the series after Lincoln has concluded his run. AMC is reportedly negotiating with Daryl Dixon star Norman Reedus to take the lead on The Walking Dead to the tune of a $20 million payday.

The series returns with its ninth season this fall on AMC.