New 'Walking Dead' Lawsuit Complicates AMC's Exec Search

The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 16 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of AMC

The latest Walking Dead profit participation lawsuit couldn't have come at a worse time for AMC. The cable network home to the biggest drama on television may be facing hurdles finding a new head of programming to replace Joel Stillerman, who departed in May to become chief content officer at Hulu.

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that top candidates for the post Matt Cherniss (formerly of WGN America) and Katherine Pope (of Studio 8) have both passed on the position. Insiders note that the new lawsuit — which may see AMC on the hook for an estimated $1 billion in potential damages — may be partially to blame for the delay in landing a top executive. 

Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman as well as exec producers Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert and former showrunner Glen Mazzara filed a new lawsuit Aug. 14 against AMC, claiming they’ve been cheated out of millions for years. Frank Darabont launched the battle in 2013 when he sued, claiming the network was doing some creative accounting to make it look like TV's No. 1 drama among the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic, and was losing money in order to avoid paying back-end profits — and accusing AMC Network of paying AMC Studios a below market per episode license fee.

In the interim, sources say CAA — which reps Darabont, Kirkman and Mazzara — won't sell to AMC unless its clients insist, while AMC has responded that it will not pay package fees to the agency during litigation.

In the meantime, Kirkman — who had been under an overall deal with AMC Studios — jumped ship Aug. 11 for a lucrative two-year pact with Amazon Studios. 

"We have enormous respect and appreciation for these plaintiffs, and we will continue to work with them as partners, even as we vigorously defend against this baseless and predictably opportunistic lawsuit," an AMC spokesperson said in response to the new Walking Dead lawsuit.