One of the biggest shows in modern TV, The Walking Dead has put fans through a more brutal experience than usual for Season 7, with Negan and his Saviors throwing safety and optimism into the flames. For one reason or another, the ratings haven't been quite as monumental this season, but that seems to be bothering AMC execs about as much as Tamiel was bothered by Father Gabriel's knife to her throat. According to AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan, the AMC drama's success is still big enough to ensure its success for years into the future. His somewhat clinical explanation:

The Walking Dead remains the No. 1 show on television among younger viewers by a very wide margin. Beyond advertising, The Walking Dead is illustrative of the benefits of owned franchise content. . . . The Walking Dead is a franchise that will deliver ancillary revenues over different distribution platforms for many years to come as it does today. And we believe it will have a long life that accrues to our strategic position and financial benefit.

All in all, that explanation wasn't quite as enthusiastic as a mass celebration complete with specially designed cakes and streamers, but the fact remains the same in the end: AMC will keep The Walking Dead around for as long as humanly (or otherwise) possible. After all, a show's success is in no way solely tied to total viewerships, as it's generally about the all-important key 18-49 adult demographic, which has a much stronger impact on advertisers' interest and faith. And the zombie thriller has zero problems in that department.

the walking dead rick and michonne

Even when The Walking Dead dipped to numbers it hasn't faced since Season 3 with the episode "Swear," - 10.40 million viewers in Live+Same Day stats - the show was still breaking the bank with a 4.9 demo rating. In comparison, CBS' mega-dramas NCIS and Bull are also pulling in double-digit audience numbers, but with respective demo ratings of 1.6 and 1.3. Those are generally positive for your average shows, but I think everyone can tell just how far ahead The Walking Dead is. And if it helps prove the point even more, once the Live+7 delayed viewing stats were tallied, "Swear" earned a massive 7.4 demo rating.

All of that basically means if The Walking Dead somehow lost all of its viewers that didn't fit into the 18-49 demographic, it would still be one of the most impressive successes on TV. It definitely helps that the Walking Dead universe isn't just tethered to AMC's live-action series, and it can only aid in building the show's audience that the horror brand survives in so many other areas of entertainment, from its comic book source material to the stellar Telltale video game series to toys to tie-in novels and much more. And since it's mostly demo-slotted adults who are buying all of those products, they're the most likely to tune in on Sunday nights, and the cycle can continue ad nauseam.

While speaking on a conference call, Josh Sapan not only commended The Walking Dead, but also the AMC stable of networks as a whole, comparing it more to a major studio than the standard channels of TV's yesteryear. With sister networks in IFC and BBC America, Josh Sapan & Co. definitely know how to craft top quality series in all genres, and we can look forward to Rick Grimes being everyone's mascot for years and years.

Can we expect the finale to match the season premiere's gigantic ratings? Find out when The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC, with Season 7 gearing up to a potential showdown between Rick's group and Negan's army. Check out more comic moments that the show needs to use and then head to our midseason premiere schedule to see what else is heading to the small screen soon.

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