Norman Reedus, star of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” said he feels like he could portray redneck character Daryl Dixon on the hit zombie series indefinitely. But of course, even though “Walking Dead” has proven to be a major success for AMC which has turned the franchise into a “365-days-per-year” fan experience it eventually will have to come to an end, said Charlie Collier, president and GM of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios. The show is currently in the middle of its 8th season. “We talk about it all the time how do you make sure it goes as long as it can, while still being a responsible business?” Collier said. “We talk about whenever it ends, that it’s Smithsonian-worthy.” He added that “this is a fun ride for everyone involved” but acknowledged that “it’s a far more expensive show in every way than it was on Day One.”
For now, AMC is looking to build on “Walking Dead” to expand its distribution. Collier announced that the programmer has cut a deal with Google’s YouTube TV to offer AMC Premiere, the advertising-free subscription tier that until now has been available only through Comcast. Reedus said fans have been involved in the show on social media from the get-go and are the reason it’s become so popular. Among “The Walking Dead” spinoffs is motorcycle show “Ride with Norman Reedus.” About “Ride,” Reedus said, “we were thinking it was more of a motorcycle gearhead show but because of the (‘Walking Dead’) fans it become something much bigger.” Heading into production season 9 of “TWD,” Reedus noted that even as the show gets bigger, “down in the field it’s always story first.” AMC has surrounded “The Walking Dead” with numerous offshoots beyond the TV show on the network to build on fan enthusiasm for the show, Collier noted. It has launched VR, AR, “Ride with Norman Reedus,” aftershow “Talking Dead,” and spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead,” will giving fans a change to catch up on past seasons on Netflix and watching the current season on AMC Premiere. “It’s a fully immersive fan experience,” Collier said. Asked by moderator Variety co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein about the show’s prospects given its significant decline in ratings for season 8 Collier responded that while the “challenges in the industry are real” there’s no position he’d rather be in. “We have had the No. 1 on television for the last six years,” Collier said. “There’s nobody who does what I do who would not want that.” Reedus told the standing-room-only crowd at the Variety event who mobbed him afterward to take pictures with the star that he’s been to Las Vegas before but never to CES. On arriving in Vegas, Reedus said, he encountered a “Walking Dead” slot machine. He decided to play it and “I won 800 bucks,” he said, to a roar of approval from the audience.