The Business of The Walking Dead – Facts & Figures

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The Zombie business became one very interesting segment. Since the Romero iconic film “The Night of The Living Dead”, Zombies became a very strong topic in the horror film industry. In 2010, with the launch of the TV series The Walking Dead, this got to the next level to become one of the biggest TV blockbusters of all time. Each episode reaches 10 million viewers only in the US with a peak at 17 million on the last season’s premiere. Here are some interesting facts in the business behind The Walking Dead. 

The Walking Dead, quick synopsis

The Walking Dead is an American post-apocalyptic horror television series developed by Frank Darabont for AMC that is based on the comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. Andrew Lincoln plays the show’s lead character, sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes, who awakens from a coma discovering a world overrun by zombies, commonly referred to as “walkers”. Grimes reunites with his family and becomes the leader of a group he forms with other survivors. Together they struggle to survive and adapt in a post-apocalyptic world filled with walkers and opposing groups of survivors, who are often more dangerous than the walkers themselves. There already seven seasons and the 8th season just started yesterday in the US. We can see in the chart below that year after year, the audiences increased constantly. Last season (season 7) seemed to reach a ceiling in terms of audiences but apparently the new season 8 will just sky rocket visibility.

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Executive producer David Alpert said in 2014 that the original comics have given them enough ideas for Rick Grimes and company over the next seven years. “I happen to love working from source material, specifically because we have a pretty good idea of what Season 10 is gonna be”, Alpert said. “We know where seasons 11 and 12 [will be]… we have benchmarks and milestones for those seasons if we’re lucky enough to get there.”

Money does please the dead!

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Compared to another highly successful TV series like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead is a very profitable series. Each episode costs generally $3.4M whereas the episodes from Game of Thrones are over $10M. The series is so popular that buying an ad space during a The Walking dead episode will cost a very high cost. Here is the top 10 most expensive ad-space buy-out in the US. We can see that in the top 10 we reached number 3.

  1.  Sunday Night Football (NBC): $628,000
  2. Monday Night Football (ESPN): $408,000
  3. The Walking Dead (AMC): $326,000
  4. The Big Bang Theory (CBS): $317,160
  5. American Idol (Wednesday) (FOX): $281,600
  6. The Voice (Tuesday) (NBC): $273,714
  7. The Following (FOX): $264,300
  8. The Voice (Monday) (NBC): $259,240
  9. American Idol (Thursday) (FOX): $257,926
  10. Modern Family (ABC): $249,025

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If there are about 18 minutes worth of 30-second commercials during a single episode, that means AMC makes about $11 million off an episode. Subtract the amount of money it takes to produce an episode—according to The Hollywood Reporter, $2.75 million—that means that AMC is profiting a healthy $8 million every week off of TWD. Not bad!
For a very long time, it was known the Walking Dead actors would receive a very low salary, evolving between $80K to $90K. This means in average around $1.45M for the all-season. If we compare with the stars of Game of Thrones, Jon Snow or the Mother of Dragons would receive half-million US per episode. This low salary policy can be often explained thanks to the fact there is no leader in the actor’s casting. But since last season, there were a couple of major characters who installed themselves in the series. In this sense, the Hollywood reporter explained that Andrew Lincoln (Deputy Rick Grimes) and Norman Reeds (Daryl Dixon) have renegotiated their contracts as half-million US dollars for season 7 and apparently it would become more, around $650K per episode.
If we think The Walking Dead earns $326,000 per 30 seconds. Figuring around 18 minutes per episode of commercials, AMC looks to make approximately $11 million on first run episodes alone (not including DVD purchases, Netflix licensing, and merchandising).

While season 7 was extremely criticized, Season 8 started yesterday in a very polite way. Rumors tend to say that Season 8 will take more into consideration the fans opinion. Here is the trailer for season 8:

If you wish to learn  more about the fascinating world of The Walking Dead, please read carefully the official website here: http://www.amc.com/shows/the-walking-dead

José Amorim

Info sourced at the AMC communication releases, The Hollywood reporter, Forbes, Times and Vanity Fair. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available. Images are for illustration purposes only. 

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José Amorim

José Amorim has been working in the luxury industry for more than 15 years. In the past 8 years, he joined his personal passion for digital culture and his luxury background to develop digital strategies for premium brands. He is the founder of LuxuryActivist.com and is happy to share his passion here.