While there was a ratings dip for its season 6 premiere that caused some to question The Walking Dead's long-term future, it comes as no real surprise that AMC has today opted to renew the post-apocalyptic zombie drama for another year. After all, it's still the highest rated show on cable, and that's no small feat.
The Walking Dead season 7 will again consist of the usual 16 episode order, split into two blocks of 8 installments each. As one might expect, AMC has also picked up another season of TWD's highly rated post-episode talk show Talking Dead. Unlike its parent show, Talking Dead continues to grow in the ratings, with last Sunday's episode drawing over 7 million viewers. This represents the Chris Hardwick-hosted chat show's biggest total audience for any episode not to be a season premiere or finale.
Season 7 of The Walking Dead is set to stay the course on the creative end, with longtime showrunner Scott Gimple returning to steer the ship, with the help of executive producers Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert, Greg Nicotero, and Tom Luse. With all the showrunner turnover in the first few seasons of The Walking Dead, it's fairly refreshing to see that Gimple has managed to create a legacy with the series. Barring an extremely drastic drop in viewership, it's not hard to imagine that the top job is his as long as he wants it.
On that note, here is the official statement regarding The Walking Dead's season 7 renewal, from AMC president Charlie Collier:
“Thank goodness someone had a Magic 8-Ball with them in our many long internal meetings about these renewals. When, on the third shake, ‘without a doubt’ filled the murky blue screen, we knew we had to proceed with new seasons of ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Talking Dead.'
"All joking aside, we are so proud to share these shows with fans who have been so passionate, communicative and engaged. We are grateful for and continually impressed by the talent, effort and excellence on continuous display by Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple, Chris Hardwick and the many people with whom we partner to make these unique shows possible.”
Speaking of dropping viewership: while some in the media were quick to sound the alarm bells over The Walking Dead's season premiere rating, it's far too early for the show's future to be in question. While it's true that season 6 debuted to an audience of nearly 3 million less people than season 5, one needs to keep in mind just how ahead of the pack The Walking Dead has been for the last few years - including, its successful expansion of the brand with the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead this year.
Even with the aforementioned dip, The Walking Dead still easily outpaces every other scripted show on cable, and nearly all that air on the big four broadcast networks too. Sure, week 2 of season 6 dropped even further, but that was offset by week 3 recovering nicely, nearly matching the numbers of the same week last season. In short, Walker fans can rest easy, at least for now. TWD's ratings may have taken a bullet in the shoulder, but the brain-exploding head shot is still a long ways off.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.