'Walking Dead' Final Season to Premiere in August

Walking Dead Norman Reedus
Eli Ade/AMC

The end of The Walking Dead is closer than you think.

AMC on Sunday announced that the 11th and final season of The Walking Dead would return Aug. 22. That's two months earlier than the show's traditional October debut and the first time the flagship zombie drama has launched outside of the Halloween season.

The final season will consist of 24 episodes — essentially a season and a half — and stretch through late 2022 on AMC as the basic cable network plans to spinoff stars Norman Reedus (Daryl) and Melissa McBride (Carol) into their own as yet untitled series.

The news was announced Sunday via a teaser that aired during the 10th season finale. (Watch that, below.) Season 10 was expanded with six additional episodes that were filmed during the pandemic.

"Coming off of the six additional episodes for season 10, which focused on smaller, character-driven stories, we're excited to kick off season 11 bigger than ever,” showrunner Angela Kang said in a statement Sunday. "The stakes will be high — we'll see more zombies, tons of action, intriguing new stories, never-before-seen locations and our groups together in one community for the first time, trying to rebuild what the Whisperers took from them."

In September, after months of deliberations, AMC announced that the flagship Walking Dead would wrap with its expanded 11th season. Sources say executives involved with the franchise had debated between ending the show with either the 11th or 12th season, but ultimately a decision was made to wrap with an expanded 11th season.

As THR reported at the time, AMC's main source of revenue on the flagship series is ad revenue. While the zombie drama remains one of the most-watched programs on television, its ratings are a fraction of what they were during the show's heyday. And while the ratings have softened over the years — the series recently notched a string of series lows — ad rates for the drama have declined, too. What's more, the flagship drama's lucrative international rights are locked up via a decade-old deal with Fox International. In addition, the streaming rights to The Walking Dead were sold years ago to Netflix.

By launching a new spinoff featuring The Walking Dead's two most popular characters, AMC will have the option to sell international and streaming rights to the series while also reducing the show's budget and licensing fees. The plan, say sources, for the Carol and Daryl spinoff and to end the show around season 11 was put in place well before former AMC president Charlie Collier — who originally greenlit The Waking Dead — departed the network in 2018.

"The final chapter of The Walking Dead begins with eight action-packed episodes that will feature the massive scope and scale fans have come to expect from TWD Universe, and I'm thrilled to share that fans won't have to wait long for these incredible new episodes to debut this summer," said Scott M. Gimple, chief content officer of TWD Universe.