Walking Dead Producer David Alpert on the keys to building a ferocious fandom
Since its debut on Halloween night 2010, The Walking Dead has been winning over the hearts (and BRAINS!!) of scare-junkies around the world.
Based on Robert Kirkman’s comic book of the same name, The Walking Dead follows a group of survivors as they navigate the zombie apocalypse, facing countless dangers of both the dead and living variety.
Thanks to its potent recipe of gripping drama, suspense and eye-popping (sometimes literally) zombie FX, the show is one of cable’s biggest draws. Through eight seasons, the series holds several all-time ratings records, including the highest total viewership of any series in cable television history. It has also made stars of its large ensemble cast and led to the spinoff series Fear the Walking Dead in 2015.
To learn more about what makes The Walking Dead different and for a special look at what marketers can learn from the series’ runaway success, ahead of his appearance at Rakuten Optimism 2018, we caught up with David Alpert, executive producer of The Walking Dead and CEO of Skybound Entertainment.
How did you get in involved with the Walking Dead franchise?
Robert [Kirkman] and I met at a comic book convention and hit it off. We ended up becoming business partners and produced an animated show about Robert’s comic book, Battle Pope. Our partnership eventually led to The Walking Dead TV series and the start of our company, Skybound Entertainment.
Did you expect it would be as successful as it has been? What were some of the factors that helped it become one of the biggest shows on TV?
The idea that The Walking Dead would become this successful is well beyond anything I could’ve dreamed of. When we brought The Walking Dead to television there was no serialized horror on TV. I think we brought it in at just the right time to capture the audience.
How does Walking Dead nurture and encourage its fandom? Is it something done deliberately or just a natural byproduct of a great show?
The story is constantly evolving, and we don’t want to give viewers and readers the same thing over and over. The Walking Dead is, as Robert says, “the zombie movie that never ends,” and this gives us an opportunity to continue to give more character and emotionally driven stories for fans to enjoy. We encourage the fandom through our online fan community, Skybound Insiders, where fans can gather to watch content we create, stay up to date with new projects, and most importantly, communicate with us and one another.
What can marketers learn from the success of The Walking Dead?
If you put a creator at the center, and have them authentically talk to their audience, that empowers them in a way that nothing else does. If marketing feels authentic to the creator and their fan base, then people will be eager to consume.
Are there any other examples you can point to of companies or brands that are successfully going above and beyond to delight fans?
I think of The Grateful Dead as the original fan-centric experience that the rest of us are chasing.
While many traditional cable channels and production companies struggle to compete in the age of VOD and YouTube, companies like Rakuten Viki are growing rapidly. What do you think is the future of entertainment?
I think we’re going to see the rise of super targeted niche services like Viki and Crunchy Roll, that are playing to a very specific audience and super-serving that audience, coupled with the Amazons and Netflixs of the world that are trying to serve many different genres at once. The people in the middle will continue to get crushed.
Do you pay special attention to the changing viewing habits of Gen Z and Millennial consumers?
100%. They are the future of the way content is viewed. Ignore Gen Z and Millennials at your own peril.
As part of the fandom ourselves, what can we expect from the future of The Walking Dead and your other projects?
Skybound is constantly evolving to bring the best possible experiences to our readers, viewers and gamers. So you can expect nothing but best from our comics to our digital content.
About Rakuten Optimism 2018
Rakuten Optimism is a new retail and marketing conference that will deliver and inspire by sharing the latest trends and insights from industry leaders, and bring together senior-level marketers, entrepreneurs, influencers, tech and industry experts from around the world. The inaugural edition of the event will be held in San Francisco, California, on September 7, 2018.
David Alpert is scheduled to appear for a talk entitled “Channelling Fandom: Empower Millenials and Gen-Z Consumers by Connecting with their Passions.”
This fast-paced, one-day event will include speakers from some of the world’s most beloved brands and an exclusive evening of entertainment with a private concert from Shakira, global pop icon and one of the most successful Latin recording artists of all-time.
For more information about Rakuten Optimism 2018, visit here.