AMC Networks CEO Compares 'Walking Dead' to NFL

Josh Sapan Portrait 2011

"We would love to extend that franchise," Josh Sapan tells a Goldman Sachs conference

AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan compared AMC hit show The Walking Dead to the NFL at an investor conference in New York on Thursday

Appearing at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, he said: "It actually delivers audience like the NFL."He added that the biggest show on U.S. TV returns on Oct. 12, added that he is confident it can continue its momentum: "That's alive and well. Zombies are thriving ... notwithstanding that they are not looking well."

Sapan also referenced the recent news that AMC has ordered a pilot for a companion show about the zombie apocalypse in other parts of the world. "We would love to extend that franchise at some point in the future, and we are actually doing development work to extend it, because we think, while it may not be Doctor Who and live for 50 years, there is something quite interesting about that world and that it is not transient," he said.

Sapan had last year similarly said: "We hope that zombies live forever."

Dealmaking in the broader industry also came up at the Goldman session. "I don't think that what is proposed is necessarily dramatic," Sapan said when asked if pending pay TV mergers are a concern to him. "As the world further consolidates, we'll keep, I hope, a clear eye on it."

Asked if he has seen a big financial battle for showrunners and the like amid networks' rush to original programming, Sapan said people his company works with are typically "not TV superstars" yet, but often get a chance to show their talent when working on a show for the company.

"We are dramatically undervalued ... across the board," Sapan also reiterated on Thursday when asked about the company's carriage fees. "We have been, I believe, friendly to the [pay TV] world ... We're frankly a little out of whack. We're punching well above our price." He also said there is still "tailwind" on advertising rates at the company.

Asked about the ratings trends for movies on AMC Networks' channels, Sapan said, "There has probably been a mild drift down," which "has caused us in some instances to move away from movies," such as on WeTV.

He added: "We have been able to knock the trend a bit on AMC. We have ‎actually grown ... And we have significantly grown our movie ratings on Sundance." He explained that what helps the company is that it pays "surgical attention" to every movie it puts on.

Twitter: @georgszalai