Third Walking Dead Series, Best Christmas Ever Expansion Should Power AMC Networks’ Upfront

BBC America will devote a full day of programming each week to BBC nature and wildlife shows

AMC's third Walking Dead series, which will focus on two young female protagonists, will air on the network next year.
Gene Page/AMC

AMC Networks is barreling into its week of upfront events with several big announcements that should supercharge its upfront talks, including its decision to greenlight a third TV series in its Walking Dead franchise, which will debut next year.

The company is also expanding its Best Christmas Ever marathon, which premiered last December on AMC, to all five of its networks this year (AMC, IFC, SundanceTV, BBC America and We TV), and will be devoting a full day of programming on BBC America each Saturday to premium nature and wildlife shows from BBC.

For the next three nights, AMC Networks is inviting agencies to what it is calling the AMCN Hideaway, a multilevel space in downtown New York with a “speakeasy feel,” said Scott Collins, president of ad sales.

There, the company will be making its upfront pitch, with Collins speaking alongside We TV president and gm Marc Juris, as well as Sarah Barnett, who was named president of entertainment networks group for the company last November, after Charlie Collier departed to become Fox Entertainment CEO.

The trio will be touting AMC Networks’ momentum compared to other media companies: season to date, they are the only ones up year over year in C3 in both adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. And out of the 108 cable networks measured by Nielsen, they are home to four of the only 20 networks to see year-over-year C3 increases in those two key demos (only AMC has slipped).

The company looks to keep that streak going by officially picking up a third Walking Dead series, which will start production this summer and debut on AMC in 2020. The series is being co-created by Scott M. Gimple, chief content officer of The Walking Dead universe, and Walking Dead writer-producer Matt Negrete, who will serve as showrunner.

The addition of the third series in the franchise, alongside The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, will allow AMC to run uninterrupted Walking Dead franchise episodes on consecutive Sundays “from post-Super Bowl Sunday all the way through Thanksgiving, before we turn the switch on for Best Christmas Ever,” said Collins.

While details about the new series are still under wraps, it will feature a pair of young female protagonists coming of age during the zombie apocalypse. In the other two shows, “the young female characters increasingly are the ones who get the biggest response from fans,” said Barnett, who said that Walking Dead remains a “phenomenon” despite its ratings decline, which is in line with other cable ratings drops.

The Walking Dead remains the top-rated entertainment cable series in the 18-49 demo (and is behind only This Is Us when broadcast shows are added to the mix), and “functions as a brilliant promotional platform for other things, so our continual ambition around doubling down on the Walking Dead universe is undiminished, and in fact grows,” said Barnett.

Also in the works are Walking Dead movies, some of which will star Andrew Lincoln, who recently departed the series, but “we can’t talk about that at this point” or whether any of those movies will be sold in the upfront, said Barnett.

Spreading holiday cheer

AMC’s Best Christmas Ever, which was a big reason that holiday TV became cable’s hottest battleground last year, will return Nov. 25-Dec. 25, but the company is expanding it to all five networks, following the lead of Disney, which turned Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas throughout its portfolio. IFC, We TV, BBC America and SundanceTV will all feature holiday programming under the “Best Christmas Ever” umbrella, and the networks are already creating content featuring talent talking about their favorite holiday memories.

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