Zombie Nation: 'The Walking Dead's' Split Season Makes Some Sense

Categories: 1-Featured,Cable TV

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September 1st, 2011

Is it about the money accountants?

Bill posted the news earlier in the day that The Walking Dead would kick off its second season with a super-sized 90 minute episode. Not in the headline, but in the release was the news that AMC planned to split TWD's season. It will air six one hour episodes following the premiere consecutively through November 27, and return with the final six episodes beginning Sunday, February 12.

The split set off some complaints from fans and pundits alike. As a fan, I don’t love the break, but there may be at least one very good reason for AMC to do it. It’s something I never realized until the contentious negotiations for Breaking Bad.  The way the accounting works, networks do not have to book the production expense of an episode until it airs. That's something that potentially plays a role with the way many cable networks break up seasons.

By moving the last six episodes,  AMC can better spread out the expense of The Walking Dead over two financial quarters instead of taking the bulk of it in the fourth quarter.  I can’t say with certainty that was a primary factor in AMC’s decision, but for a new public company with soaring programming expenses, the spreading makes some sense. Particularly with Mad Men, no doubt AMC’s most expensive show, looking at a March return that will have most of its expense booked in Q2.

Whining  like “How did that work out for TNT with ‘Men of a Certain Age?” is silly nonsense.  Men of the Certain Age was never a hit and despite critical acclaim, it was never going to be. Its ratings were never better than middling, and it migrated towards ratings rubbish.  I’m not saying the split season did MoaCA any good, but comparing a show that in its best days was never a hit to another network's breakout hit is dumb.

It’s Probably Gonna Sting a Bit for Hell On Wheels Though

There is a downside and it’s not ratings for The Walking Dead -- AMC doesn’t need to worry about the ratings for The Walking Dead at least not yet. But it looks like AMC is already at least a little willing to throw in the towel on Hell On Wheels' ratings because this scheduling sure seems to throw it under the bus.

Hell On Wheels premieres on November 6, and had AMC let The Walking Dead run straight through, Hell On Wheels would’ve gotten the big lead-in for all 10 of its episodes. Now it will get it for only four.

 
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