There’s little argument that The Walking Dead began Season 8 with more of a whimper than in previous years, but AMC isn’t putting anyone out of their undead misery yet. New word from the network CEO suggests that the franchise is still intended to last them a few more decades.

Even as Season 8 suffered one of the least-watched premieres in the series’ history (while still admittedly a top-performer for cable), AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan projected complete confidence in a conference call with Wall Street analysts (h/t Deadline). According to Sapan, the Walking Dead “franchise” could shamble on for another few decades, regardless of whether the main series clings to life:

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 … [it's] in great shape and the people who are managing that great shape are motivated.

The article also notes that spinoff “companion series” Fear The Walking Dead also slipped in the ratings with its recent third season, even as the two series are expected to cross over in the coming year. If not the TV series, Sapan pointed toward “gaming, merchandising and virtual reality” to keep the franchise afloat. Sapan also previously likened The Walking Dead to the Star Trek franchise, which has gone through multiple iterations across the last fifty years.

It remains to be seen if The Walking Dead can continue in its current form beyond a few more seasons (don’t forget that mountain of profit-sharing lawsuits), but what might the future of the franchise look like?

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