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More ‘Walking Dead’ Ahead As AMC Unveils Upfront Slate

AMC has green-lighted a third series in its The Walking Dead universe and is promising advertisers high-rated zombie dramas that will run from the Super Bowl through Thanksgiving.

AMC's 'The Walking Dead'

AMC's 'The Walking Dead'

At its upfront event Monday morning (April 8), AMC Networks also is expected to announce an expansion of its new “The Best Christmas Ever” franchise, which will spill over from AMC to its four other networks — BBC America, SundanceTV, IFC and WE tv — in 2019.

BBC America is reinforcing its status as the exclusive first-window linear home of high-profile BBC nature programming. Discovery has acquired streaming video rights to BBC nature shows and announced plans to start a new direct-to-consumer streaming service. Not to be outdone, BBC America announced Project Awe, which turns the channel on Saturdays for 24 hours into a micro-net dedicated to BBC nature programming including the Planet Earth collection. Project Awe is scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter with more than 2,000 hours of programming available.

IFC also said it renewed Documentary Now! for a fourth season.

Shows With Buzz

At its upfront, AMC is aiming to remind advertisers that its networks still offer the kind of buzzy, high-quality programming that brands want to be associated with — something that is getting to be in shorter supply as more original shows shift to streaming services.

The new Walking Dead show is unnamed and few details are available. Sarah Barnett, president of the entertainment networks group for AMC Networks, said the series is being co-created by Scott Gimple, chief content officer for The Walking Dead universe, and Matt Negrete, a longtime Walking Dead writer. Negrete will be the showrunner.

The series will focus on a pair of young women who are coming of age amidst the zombie apocalypse that has turned the world upside down. Barnett said female characters have proved popular as the cast for The Walking Dead has turned over.

Production of 10 episodes of the show will begin this summer in Virginia, with the premiere on AMC expected in 2020.

“On the heels of an incredible ninth season of The Walking Dead and as we approach an anticipated new season of Fear this summer, this is an exciting moment for the Dead franchise, which continues to thrive in a highly competitive environment,” Barnett said. “We are thankful to be working with some of the best creatives in the business to expand this Universe in new and exciting ways for our fans.”

The new zombie program follows the phenomenon of The Walking Dead. Having just completed its ninth season, ratings have been falling for The Walking Dead, but the show remains the most-watched scripted program on cable and second to only NBC’s This is Us in all of TV.

The second zombie show, Fear the Walking Dead, will start its fifth season in June.

With its huge, loyal and engaged audience, The Walking Dead commands premium pricing for AMC. When the show is on the air, AMC generates strong ad sales; in between seasons, revenue drops. Advertisers use the high-rated franchise to launch products and open movies. With the third show available, AMC will be able to meet that demand nearly year-round.

When The Walking Dead wraps up in November, AMC’s Best Christmas Ever stunt will kick in.

Holiday themed programming will air wall to wall on AMC, and the company’s other networks will also present seasonal movies and specials.

Stunting for the Holidays

AMC hopped on the trend of running holiday-themed programming during Christmas season, which has been very successful for Hallmark Channel and Freeform.

IFC's 'Documentary Now!'

IFC's 'Documentary Now!'

In 2018, Best Christmas Ever boosted AMC’s primetime audience among adults 25 to 54 by 86% compared to the previous December. Total-day ratings were up 34%. In addition to generating good ratings, advertisers like being able to put their holiday messages in holiday themed shows.

This year, Best Christmas Ever will begin on Nov. 25 and run through Dec. 25. It will feature films including Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Polar Express and classic specials like The Year Without a Santa Claus, Rudolph’s Shiny New Year and ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.

“Best Christmas Ever was a huge success for AMC. It brought something special to fans of holiday programming and to our advertising partners looking for a safe and family-friendly place to deliver brand and buying messages in December,” Tom Halleen, executive vice president of programming strategy, acquisitions and scheduling for AMC Networks, said.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.