The Walking Dead is the most popular show on television, when you look at the ratings. Regardless of whether you believe the quality of the show itself has been slipping over the years, the numbers don’t lie — The Walking Dead continues to be a huge hit for AMC.
The show has sparked one lawsuit already, as former showrunner Frank Darabont sued the network after being unceremoniously fired in 2011 after protesting AMC’s desire for twice as many episodes with 20% less budget, leading to an entire season of the show being spent on a farm. He is suing for $280 million in unpaid profits.
As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, a new lawsuit filed by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman (who is also an executive producer of the show) claims that AMC is holding out on paying him profits. Kirman, along with co-producers Gale Anne Hurd, Glen Mazzara (the showrunner from 2011-13), and David Alpert, have filed suit against AMC claiming that fishy accounting results in them being paid way less than their fair share.
It boils down to licensing fees. Most televisions shows are made by a production studio and then licensed out to a network for an agreed upon fee. In the case of The Walking Dead, however, AMC actually owns the series themselves, so they don’t pay a licensing fee. Instead, they “impute” their own licensing fee to the producers. Kirkman’s lawsuit basically claims that they are offering an incredibly low number compared to the massive profits the show brings in via advertising dollars. One example cited in the lawsuit is that AMC received over $22 million from Apple for the sale of the show on iTunes, but only reported $4.6 million of it. That means the producers were robbed of their share of the other $18 million.
AMC issued a statement in response to the lawsuit, which they called “baseless” and “opportunistic”:
“Virtually every studio that has had a successful show has been the target of litigation like this, and ‘The Walking Dead’ has been the #1 show on television for five years in a row, so this is no surprise. 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.”
It’s not the first time AMC has clashed with a show creator. They famously feuded with Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, over things like budget, run time, and who would spend the money to continue producing the show — AMC themselves or Lionsgate Television studios.
The Walking Dead returns for Season Eight in October, and will probably continue for as long as AMC wants it to.