AMC Networks was hit hard by the advertising crunch hitting the media industry, especially as fewer cable TV viewers are around to command those pricier commercials. Can the return of The Walking Dead fan favorites Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira bring back some of the network’s swagger?
It was nearly 14 years since the original series premiered, but it catapulted AMC Networks into the stratosphere and became appointment television — a concept is all but dead in today’s streaming age. The company is hoping to recapture that magic with Lincoln’s Rick and Gurira’s Michonne, who return in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live to continue their story left off in the original series. It premieres on February 25.
Lincoln was an original cast member of the show, while Gurira joined in season three, although Michonne was teased in the season two finale before she was cast.
The show comes out during a wildly different media environment. Cord cutters have rendered cable TV far less valuable as a central location to watch content. Just look at AMC Network’s fourth-quarter results, which it reported on Friday. It reported that advertising revenue fell by nearly a quarter to $158 million due to lower ratings of its cable channels, weaker spending from sponsors, and fewer original programming in the period.
But AMC has been investing in its streaming services. It saw subscribers tick up 1% to 11.4 million, while streaming revenue rose 4% to $145 million.
AMC Networks is one of the smaller media players that isn’t trying to offer a massively comprehensive streaming library like Netflix. Its AMC+ subscribers get access to its originals on demand and other related content, and is more of a niche offering. But the results underscore the broader issues the media companies are facing with their businesses so tightly tied to cable TV, which is bleeding customers.
It’s with streaming that The Walking Dead remains alive. AMC Network has invested in expanding its line up free, ad-supported streaming channels, and now has 17 of them across 11 different distribution platforms. Some of them are solely dedicated to The Waking Dead Universe, allowing new and younger audiences to find the shows.
Whether they’ll love the show enough to watch The Ones Who Live on cable or AMC+ remains a big question.
Image credit: AMC Networks