daryl the walking dead

Few corners of pop culture exist these days that haven't been touched upon by The Walking Dead in some way, and the comic-to-TV-to-everything-else franchise is bigger and broader than ever in almost all respects. While the early weeks of Season 8 may have seen a ratings drop-off for the AMC cash cow, let no one be fooled that The Walking Dead is currently disappointing anyone at the network. In fact, AMC's CEO Josh Sapan just circled around the bold assertion that the zombie drama's universe could very well remain in the picture for many years, decades even. In his words:

The use of the word 'franchise,' we don't take lightly. It's not a sloppy or casual word. We've studied the best. Some have been around 30, 40, 50 years. We have a chance for a lot of life in the franchise.

Josh Sapan definitely worded things carefully enough as not to directly state that The Walking Dead will end up staying on the air as long as The Simpsons, but the AMC Networks CEO has the utmost confidence that the TV show and its many offshoots will continue delivering emotional and blood-soaked mayhem to audiences for many more years to come. And he's obviously not just being flippantly optimistic here, since he's got all the numbers and statistics that guide such planning and forethought.

We could spend all day talking about where The Walking Dead and its extended universe could take things across the next 20 years or so. But that's probably not a good use of time. Just don't expect to see Rick Grimes living on to witness his grandchildren being born.

The Walking Dead remains the King of TV in the key age demographic, both on Sunday nights and every other night of the week, and it would likely take an even bigger and more consistent dip in viewership to take it down from that marquee position. But even beyond just the flagship show, AMC is also running with the success of Fear the Walking Dead, coming off its most narratively exciting season (in my opinion, at least), and even those that show's numbers also aren't what they used to be, both of the Walking Dead series earn pretty solid numbers in delayed viewing, which is almost as important to the Big Picture as live airings are. (That crossover will help, too.) And then there's the aftershow Talking Dead, which saw some of its biggest numbers yet during its extended star-studded episode following the Season 8 premiere. It's a triple threat that many other networks would love to have.

As Josh Sapan put it, according to Deadline, the Walking Dead's franchise is "in great shape," and he says that everyone who's working within it is motivated to keep that success going and growing. The company posted its Q3 report today, which boasted a 2.1% uptick in net revenues, which equaled $648 million, with its Operating Income bouncing up 30.9% to $153 million. Those numbers are drawn not just from AMC itself, but also the other networks under its umbrella, such as IFC, Sundance and more, as well as the relatively newly launched streaming service AMC Premiere, an idea that might not have existed had The Walking Dead not become the behemoth it has.

While The Walking Dead's streaming home at Netflix has also undoubtedly helped to draw in viewers who had passed on the series before, the brand's success is also dictated by the many other ventures incorporated recently. That includes the offshoot video games, the widespread merchandising efforts, and the recent focus on tapping into virtual reality through the AMC VR app. Who knows what other exciting avenues the show could head down next?

RELATED: The 8 Walking Dead Characters Most Likely To Die In Season 8

Be sure to tune into The Walking Dead every Sunday night on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out how the show's latest big shocker came about, and head to our fall TV premiere schedule to see other shows hitting AMC's networks and more as 2017 heads to its end.

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