New Life for the Zombies of AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’

A syndication deal with Fox’s MyNetworkTV will bring a tamer version of AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ to living rooms this fall.

Tim Beyers
Tim Beyers
Apr 1, 2014 at 7:33AM
The Business

The zombie apocalypse is spreading! Last week, Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) syndication arm MyNetworkTV inked a deal to be the exclusive broadcast home for AMC Networks' (NASDAQ:AMCX) The Walking Dead.

MyNetworkTV will begin broadcasting edited episodes of AMC's The Walking Dead this fall. Credit: AMC Networks.

MyNetworkTV broadcasts through Fox affiliate stations around the country, including WWOR in New York, KCOP in Los Angeles, and WPWR in Chicago. Episodes airing this fall are likely to comply with common network standards and practices, which means cutting at least a portion of the show's well-established vulgarity and violence.

How that'll impact syndicated viewership remains to be seen. In the meantime, Fox says that MyNetworkTV reaches 97% of the country and ranks fifth among broadcast and cable networks in total households, eighth among 18-49 year olds, and seventh among those aged 25-54. Good numbers for key demographics.

A promise fulfilled
Neither company disclosed financial details of the arrangement. And yet there's still reason for AMC investors to cheer. Why? In May 2012, chief executive Josh Sapan spoke about the long-term potential for broadcast syndication in the wake of selling prior-season streaming rights to Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX).

At the time, Sapan said the Netflix deal was "improving ratings" of current-season airings of The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men. "For us, the data suggests that this delayed digital distribution is in fact increasing linear viewership and in turn driving the value of the paid ecosystem," Sapan said.

When asked if the streaming deal might come at the expense of syndication elsewhere, Sapan wouldn't preclude a domestic TV syndication deal. Instead, he figured such an agreement would be "significantly reduced" as compared to what AMC might get from Netflix and its peers. We'll have to wait for the next quarterly report to see how right he was.

In the meantime, MyNetworkTV is purchasing rights to AMC's The Walking Dead just weeks after Sony sold Comcast the rights to sell House of Cards episodes through its Xfinity store. The message? The tables have turned. Once barely more than a destination for broadcast TV reruns, upstart cable and streaming networks are now selling their best to the broadcasters.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Have you been watching AMC's The Walking Dead? Leave a comment to let us know whether you think the show can succeed in broadcast syndication, and whether you would buy, sell, or short AMC stock at current prices.

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