Like a “Walking Dead” zombie, AMC’s business practices may be coming back to bite them.
Following in the steps of former showrunner Frank Darabont, “The Walking Dead” producers Gale Anne Hurd, Glen Mazzara, David Alpert and Robert Kirkman filed a lawsuit against AMC on Monday over profit sharing. Kirkman also created the comic that inspired the show.
ComicBook.com reports the suit could become “one of the biggest profits cases in television history,” with up to $1 billion sought in damages.
The producers believe their shares of various percentages of profits from the hit series are being manipulated. Specifically, the group has drawn into question the amount the network pays to its studio arm for the right to air the show. “There can be no question that, if AMC Studio[s] and AMC Network were not part of the same conglomerate, the story would be very different,” the complaint reads.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that licensing fees for “The Walking Dead” are less than “Better Call Saul” and “Mad Men,” produced by non-affiliated companies Sony and Lionsgate. And, as the complaint states, ratings for those shows “were a fraction of ‘TWD’s.’”
The producers claim in their complaint that AMC “exploited their vertically integrated corporate structure to combine both the production and the exhibition of [“The Walking Dead”], which allowed AMC to keep the lion’s share of the series’ enormous profits for itself and not share it with the Plaintiffs, as required by their contracts.”
In a statement provided HuffPost, AMC called the suit “predictably opportunistic”:
These kinds of lawsuits are fairly common in entertainment and they all have one thing in common — they follow success. Virtually every studio that has had a successful show has been the target of litigation like this, and “The Walking Dead” has been the No. 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.
The case doesn’t seem good for “Walking Dead” fans, but it’s worth noting that the plaintiffs still involved with the show have not announced their departures.
In fact, Kirkman assured fans as recently as Monday that, despite a new deal with Amazon, he’ll still be working on the AMC hit.
Plus, as io9 points out, showrunner Scott Gimple and executive producer Greg Nicotero are not listed as plaintiffs. So, even if everyone decided to leave for some reason, the show will likely go on.
“The Walking Dead” Season 8 premieres Oct. 22.