AMC Orders a Fifth Helping of The Walking Dead

Renewal of TV’s top-rated series is a no-brainer

Ravaged by a killer flu and the ever-present hordes of ravenous Walkers, things are looking decidedly grim for the characters on AMC’s The Walking Dead. But at least a handful of survivors will persevere, as the network on Tuesday announced it has picked up the series for a fifth season.

The decision was a no-brainer. According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, The Walking Dead is TV’s highest-rated scripted series, averaging 14.3 million viewers and a staggering 7.4 in the 18-49 demo. (The runner-up? CBS’ hit comedy The Big Bang Theory, which is averaging a 5.4 in the demo on Thursday nights.)

That The Walking Dead had earned another season was apparent after the show returned Oct. 13 for its fourth go-around. The Season 4 premiere of the zombie apocalypse thriller scared up a whopping 16.1 million viewers and an 8.2 in the demo, scorching everything in its path and setting yet another record for an ad-supported cable series.

While down from that lofty start, Sunday night’s installment still did well enough (6.8) to outdeliver NBC’s Sunday Night Football (6.3) and Game 4 of the 2013 World Series on Fox (4.6). Of course, the Packers-Vikings game was an outlier; season to date, SNF is averaging a much more robust 8.4 in the dollar demo.

Besides the renewal news, AMC said that Scott Gimple will return as the Dead’s showrunner, along with executive producers Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert, Greg Nicotero and Tom Luse. Gimple’s return engagement offers an encouraging sign of stability for the series, which had cycled through two previous showrunners before deputizing him in February 2013.

The Dead team will also pitch in on a spinoff series that was announced in September.

“We are very happy to make what has to be one of the most anti-climactic renewal announcements ever,” said Charlie Collier, AMC president. “This is a show that has erased traditional distinctions between cable and broadcast.”

Indeed, The Walking Dead now commands one of the most steep ad rates on the tube. Media buyers said that the average unit cost for a package buy across AMC’s Sunday night lineup of first-run Dead and the studio show Talking Dead is approximately $347,000 a pop.

The National Football League continues to boast the highest ad rates on the dial, as Fox’s roster of eight late national NFC games fetches a jaw-dropping $595,000 per :30. NBC’s 17-game prime-time slate commands a similar rate.

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