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WGA Negotiations Impasse: Why Options & Exclusivity Issue Is So Important To Writers

By | Friday March 14, 2014 @ 2:21pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Issues faced by TV writers again are the sticking point in the WGA negotiations amptp-wgawith the studios. In 2007, when the impasse led to a writers strike, it was residuals from series distributed online. This time around, it is the restrictive contracts for writers working in cable and on digital platforms. Under pattern bargaining, the deal between the WGA and AMPTP was expected to be similar to the recent DGA agreement with the studios with two writer-specific issues brought to the table by WGA — parity between cable and broadcast pay and the notion of exclusively and options. One of the two seem to have been resolved. “Every aspect of our contract has been negotiated and agreed upon with two exceptions — options and exclusivity — which remain points of contention between us,” negotiating committee co-chairs Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray wrote to their constituency last night. What are options and exclusivity, why are they so important to writers and what do writers seek to accomplish on them ?

While the number of scripted cable series at the time of the 2007 negotiations was a fraction of the number of such shows on broadcast, there is now parity between the two, with cable and digital scripted programming gaining an edge with rapid expansion. For instance, during calendar year 2013, broadcast networks introduced 23 new series, while cable/digital debuted almost 40, not counting kids fare. That means that soon there may be more writers working in cable and digital than in broadcast, all of them facing the underemployment problem that is at the heart of the current WGA-AMPTP stand-off.

Related:  New Development Model From Writers’ Perspective: More Opportunities, Less Pay?

What has been hailed as major part of the lure of cable as a superior creative environment — shorter orders — has become a major practical problem for writers. As Johannessen and Ray pointed out in their letter, broadcast dramas employ writers for 10 months a year to produce 22 episodes, followed by a two-month unpaid hiatus before writers start work on the following season. In cable/digital, 10-13 episodes a season is the norm, though shorter orders — as few as eight or even six (HBO’s Getting On) — also are accepted.

writers_room_middle“Writers on short-order shows now find themselves working for half a year or less, then stuck on unpaid hiatus for open-ended periods while waiting to see if their show — and their contract — will be renewed,” Johannessen and Ray wrote. According to a standard cable contract, because of the long lag time between seasons, shows have an option on a writer for up to six months after the previous season finale airs or up to 9 months after the season premiere. During that time, they are not getting paid. What’s more, “during this period they are virtually unemployable because studios demand ‘exclusivity’ and ‘first position,’ preventing writers from seeking other work, their ability to make a living cut off,” the letter said. That often involves not only inability to staff on another show, but also write a pilot or work as a producer on one, and, in some cases, even write a feature. The exclusivity is strictly enforced by many studios, and any side gig usually requires an exhaustive process of seeking the studio’s permission, which may or may not be granted. Read More »

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AMC Partners With Next Games For ‘The Walking Dead’ Mobile Game

By | Thursday March 6, 2014 @ 7:15am PST

walkingdead1Next Games and AMC today said the Finnish games company is in production of a mobile game based on The Walking Dead. The game’s worldwide launch will coincide with the Season 5 launch of the series that, for a second year, is No. 1-ranked in the demo in the U.S. “We chose to team up with Next Games because of their outstanding creative and technical talent, as well as a willingness to re-imagine the unique and compelling world of The Walking Dead, which has built a significant and passionate global fan community,” said Charlie Collier, AMC president. Read More »

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Oscars Thrashes ‘Walking Dead’ In Demo Results

By | Monday March 3, 2014 @ 11:41am PST

wd march 2The Walking Dead beat the Olympics three Sundays in a row this year among adults 18-49, but it could not thrash the Oscars  in the key demo last night. The 12th episode of Season 4 of AMC’s zombie apocalypse series drew a 6.4 rating with 8.1 million viewers in the demo at 9 PM last night. That’s 46%  less than both the 12 rating and 15.25 million viewers in the demo during the hour opposite the Academy Awards in preliminary fast nationals Sunday. Overall, Walking Dead was watched by 12.6 million viewers, while 40.1 million tuned for the Oscars from 9-10 PM. The 3 1/2-hour Ellen DeGeneres-hosted Academy Awards was watched by 43 million in total. Not that the head-to-head loss to the Oscars was much of a decrease from last week’s Walking Dead results –  the show slipped a mere 3% from its demo rating and viewership last week.

Related: Oscars Viewership Hits 10-Year High

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AMC’s ‘Walking Dead’ Thrashes NBC’s Olympics Closing Ceremony In Key Demo

By | Monday February 24, 2014 @ 12:18pm PST

Walkers - The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 11 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMCIt really bites to be Sochi today. More specifically it bites to be NBC’s coverage of the XXII Winter Olympics and to get chewed up for the third time by The Walking DeadLike last Sunday and on February 9 before that, AMC’s zombie apocalypse series has bested the Olympics among adults 18-49 – this time beating the Closing Ceremony. The 9 PM AMC show drew a 6.6 rating with 8.4 million viewers in the demo. The Walking Dead had 13.1 million viewers overall. Head-to-head with Walking Dead in the time slot, the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi Olympics pulled in a 3.2 rating with 4.09 million viewers in the key demo. For the hour, NBC’s tape-delayed broadcast had 15.21 million viewers. Overall, last night’s 8:30 PM-10:30 PM Closing Ceremony got in a 3.3/8 rating and 15.3 million viewers in preliminary fast nationals.

Related: NBC’s Sochi Olympics Closing Ceremony Ratings Hit All-Time Low For Winter Games

2014 Winter Olympic Games - Closing CeremonyThat’s a 40% drop in the key demo and a 29% fall in viewership from the Closing Ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 games and a 13% slide among adults 18-49 from the end of Torino 2006. However, Sochi did squeeze out a small 3% viewership compared to the Closing Ceremony 8 years … Read More »

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AMC Rejects “Baseless” ‘Walking Dead’ Lawsuit From Frank Darabont & CAA

By | Thursday February 20, 2014 @ 3:27pm PST

AMC Frank Darabont LawsuitMore than two months since original The Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont and CAA sued AMC, over unpaid fees and other claims, the cable station has finally replied. In a dry point-by-point 10-page retort filed today in the Supreme Court of New York, AMC denied all of the plaintiffs’ claims and asked for the case to be dismissed. “Defendants deny that Plaintiffs are entitled to any relief, whether monetary, compensatory, declarative, equitable, costs, and/or fees relating to this matter, or in any other form sought by Plaintiffs,” said the filing (read it here). “We look forward to demonstrating through the legal process that this is a baseless lawsuit built on claims that have no merit,” an AMC spokesperson told me today. The dense December 17 complaint that Darabont and CAA filed against AMC Network Entertainment and others alleged that the former WD EP and his agency were cheated out of contractually assured profits from the blockbuster zombie apocalypse series.

AMC’s ‘Walking Dead’ Slays NBC’s Olympics In Key Demo Again
TNT’s Mob City Not Getting Second Season

TNT's "Mob City" Screening - After PartyDarabont and CAA’s 24-page plus exhibits filing late last year also claimed that AMC enacted a limbo-low license-fee shell game to the show based on Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels to pad its own pockets. It also said that cabler snagged some tax money from the state of Georgia and ran the in-house … Read More »

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AMC’s ‘Walking Dead’ Slays NBC’s Olympics In Key Demo Again

By | Tuesday February 18, 2014 @ 10:30am PST

Walkers - The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 10 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMCOne time might sting a bit, but a second time it really has to hurt. Just like it did February 9 with its midseason return, AMC’s The Walking Dead has beaten NBC’s Olympics coverage in the adults 18-49 demo. The zombie drama drew 13.3 million at 9 PM on Sunday night and 8.7 million in the key demo for a 6.8 rating. That’s up from the 5.6 rating among adults 18-49 that NBC’s Sochi broadcast pulled in during the same hour. Last week, the blockbuster drama series drew 10.4 million in the 18-49 demo with 15.8 million viewers overall. That ratings result was an 8.2, compared with the Olympics’ 7.4 in the slot. NBC’s primetime Olympics’ coverage had a 6.9 rating on February 9 and a 4.8 rating on Sunday. Sunday’s Walking Dead was once again the top show on both broadcast and cable in the key demo.

Related: Sochi Olympics’ Second Sunday Ratings Fall From Vancouver 2010 & Last Week

OlympicsOverall, NBC’s bruised Olympics coverage has been 15% behind Vancouver 2010 so far in the demo this Winter Games, with a 3% slip from Torino 2006. It’s worth remembering that nearby Vancouver was broadcast virtually live, while Torino was on a tape-delay like Sochi. Torino also didn’t have the vast streaming resources and other platforms NBC is … Read More »

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AMC’s ‘Walking Dead’ Return Steals Ratings Gold From NBC’s Sochi Games

By | Monday February 10, 2014 @ 11:59am PST

WalkingDeadThe Walking Dead sprinted back to the airwaves last night on AMC. The resumption of Season 4 drew 15.8 million viewers and 10.4 million in the adults 18-49 demographic. It outperformed NBC’s Sochi Winter Olympics on Sunday night in the demo.

Related: Ratings Rat Race: NBC’s Olympics Coverage On Par With Vancouver

It marks the latest record for the zombie drama, which attracted 12.1 million viewers and 7.7 million adults 18-49 for this season’s winter finale December 1 — a midseason finale record. Before Sunday night’s return this season already was pacing 29% ahead of Season 3, even topping broadcast biggie Sunday Night Football on NBC in the demo on several occasions. That feat came thanks to keeping the momentum going from its October 13 season premiere, which drew a cable-record 16.1 million viewers and 10.4 million adults 18-49.

Following the 9 PM premiere last night, AMC presented Talking Dead at 10, which became the highest premiere in series history with 5.9 million viewers, including 3.9 million adults 18-49. The midseason premiere of the show dissecting the night’s Dead premiere was, as usual, hosted by Chris Hardwick and featured guests Greg Nicotero and Dania Gurira. Read More »

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AMC’s ‘Walking Dead’ Season 4 Risen Early in Xbox Leak

By | Saturday February 8, 2014 @ 6:15pm PST

Walking Dead S4The mid-season premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead is set to air Sunday night, but some Xbox users got a unscheduled sneak peek when Season 4′s ninth episode appeared for free on Xbox Video this morning. It has since been made unavailable to Xbox users. AMC confirmed the slip-up happened but declined to comment on how the incident occurred. The zombie drama is already one of the most pirated shows on air.

Related: AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 4 Debut Smashes Records

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‘Walking Dead’ Panel At TV Academy Reveals No “Protection” In Season 4 Return; Star Andrew Lincoln Too Sick To Attend

By | Thursday February 6, 2014 @ 10:00pm PST

WD Ensemble“This is the first time since Season 1 where they don’t have any protection,” The Walking Dead EP and director Greg Nicotero said tonight of the remainder of the show’s fourth season. “You get a sweeping sense of the world again, and our characters are thrust back in it,” he added without giving away any more than that.

Related: ‘The Walking Dead’s Season 4 Return (Video)

Just days before the AMC series comes back from its midseason break, Nicotero was joined at the TV Academy by creator/executive producer Robert Kirkman, EP Gale Anne Hurd, EP and showrunner Scott Gimple, EP Dave Alpert, stars Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun and other members of WD’s main cast. Unlike a similar appearance at the TV Academy around this time last year — when recently exited EP Glen Mazzara was suddenly a no-show — there wasn’t any controversy, but there was another notable absence. Lead Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes on the show, was scheduled to be there tonight but ended up missing the evening due to a cold. “I am so sorry I’m not to be able to attend this event, but I am currently the walking dead tonight,” the actor said in a note to the audience read by Gimple in a terrible British accent. Read More »

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‘Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun Sets New Reps

By | Tuesday January 28, 2014 @ 10:19am PST
Mike Fleming

Steven_Yeun_HSEXCLUSIVE: The Walking Dead star Steven Yeun has signed with Gotham/Principal for management and Paradigm. Yeun, whose Glenn character staved off illness and a final episode zombie attack that brings him back for more, is part of the cast of I Origins, the Mike Cahill-directed science fiction film that premiered at Sundance and was acquired for distribution by Fox Searchlight, with Michael Pitt, Brit Marling and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey also starring. Yeun has made it four seasons on AMC’s The Walking Dead. He continues to be lawyered by Adam Kaller.

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TV Teaser: ‘The Walking Dead’s Season 4 Return

By | Friday January 17, 2014 @ 10:34am PST

walking dead season 4 winter finale 2At least 12.1 million pairs of eyes are waiting for the return of AMC‘s ratings powerhouse The Walking Dead on February 9. That’s how many watched the winter finale December 1, when two main characters got the ax and the prison refuge was set ablaze. The viewership total marked a midseason-finale high for the zombie series that seems to keep setting ratings records; overall, the current season’s first half was up 29% compared with the first half of Season 3. Here’s a preview clip of Season 4′s second half:

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‘Walking Dead’ Reveals Season 4B Key Art

By | Thursday January 2, 2014 @ 9:49am PST
Nellie Andreeva

The Walking Dead S4B Key ArtCarl Grimes’ star in The Walking Dead universe continues to rise. After his father Rick had dominated The Walking Dead posters since the hit series’ launch, he is now sharing the spotlight with his son. The poster for the second half of The Walking Dead Season 4 released today  features Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) with the tagline, “Don’t Look Back.”

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Frank Darabont & CAA Suing AMC Over ‘The Walking Dead’ Profits

By | Tuesday December 17, 2013 @ 7:40pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

Frank Darabont Walking Dead Lawsuit AMC2ND UPDATE 7:40 PM: The most colorful reaction to today’s lawsuit once again came from Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, who previously blasted AMC over the dismissal of Glen Mazzara, Frank Darabont‘s successor on The Walking Dead. Sutter wrote on Twitter, “go frank. fuck those ghoulish, dead-eyed scumbags in their green-gobbed asses. i ain’t talking about the zombies.”

PREVIOUS 11:25 AM:  AMC‘s The Walking Dead is the biggest show on television but its developer Frank Darabont has yet to receive any money as a profit participant. Today, Darabont and his agency CAA filed a lawsuit (read it here) against AMC, accusing the network in “self dealing” by setting an unrealistically low license fee for the zombie series it also produces and employing questionable accounting practices thus depriving profit participants of compensation. The complaint also alleges Darabont was wrongfully terminated from the show, that he should continue to receive an executive producer credit and is entitled to proceeds from The Walking Dead offshoots Talking Dead and the upcoming spinoff from Robert Kirkman, on whose graphic novel The Walking Dead was based. UPDATE: AMC declined comment on the litigation. Darabont and CAA are asking for unspecified “monetary damages” to be determined by a jury trial.

The_Walking_Dead__120709092907Judging by the history of vertical integration lawsuits, the odds are small that the dispute would go to trial. There have been a slew of “self dealing” complaints since the 1995 relaxation of TV’s financial interest-syndication rules — all of them eventually settled. The list includes Home Improvement producers’ suit against Disney, NYPD Blue exec producer Steven Bochco’s, X-Files star David Duchovny’s and M*A*S*H star Alan Alda’s complaints against 20th Century Fox TV, and more recently Will & Grace creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan’s case against NBC and Smallville creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough’s against Warner Bros TV. They all accused a studio of  not negotiating a fair (or “arms’ length”) deal when selling a series to a corporate sibling, or “self-dealing,” which had hurt profit participants’ financial returns. The difference is that Darabont was also fired from the show early into its run, a move Darabont and CAA are using in their case against AMC. The lawsuit, filed today with the New York Supreme Court, comes after sources say efforts by Darabont and CAA to resolve their issues were “fundamentally rebuffed” by AMC. The 73-page complaint was accompanied by a summons from the plaintiffs for AMC to reply by mid-January or risk default judgment.

Related: ‘Walking Dead’ Winter Finale Draws 12.1M Viewers
Read More »

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TBS Snaps USA’s Yearly Streak With Demo Viewers, But ‘Walking Dead’ Is King Of The Cable Universe In 2013 (GALLERY)

By | Saturday December 14, 2013 @ 4:45pm PST

UPDATED: TBS will snap USA’s seven-year winning streak among 18- to 49-year-old viewers for 2013, though TBSlogoUSA will hang on to its title as the most-watched ad-supported basic cable network for an unprecedented eighth year. Nielsen stats say that with days to go in the calendar year, USA also has maintained its lead with viewers 25-54 viewers for the year, and TBS will edge USA to claim its second yearly win with 18- to 34-year-olds.

USANetwork_logoThat said, neither network can boast a single original prime time series in the Basic Cable Top-10 Ratings Hit Parade — in any of these metrics. AMC’s The Walking Dead and A&E’s Duck Dynasty were the prettiest dresses in the basic-cable shop in 2013. Walking Dead and Duck Dynasty are the No. 1 and No. 2 original primetime series for the year, respectively, in total viewers, 25-54, 18-49, 18-34, and 12-34. Overall, The Walking Dead averaged 16.16 million viewers in 2013, with Duck Dynasty at 13.37 million, followed closely by History’s The Bible at 13.2 million.

Related: ‘Walking Dead’ Winter Finale Draws 12.1M Viewers

USA will average 2.75 million viewers for the year, followed by Disney Channel‘s 2.49 million, History‘s 2.16 million, TNT‘s 2.13 million, TBS’ 2.07 million, and ESPN‘s 2.05 mil. Read More »

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‘Walking Dead’ Winter Finale Draws 12.1M Viewers

By | Monday December 2, 2013 @ 12:23pm PST

walking dead season 4 winter finale 2Two main characters were killed off and the prison refuge was set ablaze last night on the Season 4 winter finale of AMC‘s The Walking Dead last night. The ratings powerhouse zombie apocalypse drama also saw 12.1 million total viewers watch its 9 PM broadcast and 7.7 million in the 18-49 demo tune in on Sunday. That’s a midseason finale record for the series. It’s also a solid boost from the 10.5 million total viewers and the 6.86 million 18-49 viewers who tuned in to last year’s midseason closer on December 2, 2012. Overall, The Walking Dead  was up 29% in the first half of its fourth season over the first half of Season 3. The series returns for the last part of its fourth season on February 9, 2014.

‘Walking Dead’ Season 4 Debut Smashes Records
AMC Renews ‘Walking Dead’ For Season 5

The show’s Season 4 premiere at 9 PM on October 13 this year hit a series and cable viewership records of 16.1 million total watching and 10.4 million among adults 18-49.  Throughout the season, the Dead has even bested NBC’s NFL Sunday Night Football on a couple of times among the key demo. Best its Season 4 debut the previous series high for the series was the March 31st Season 3 finale episode. That Dead was  watched by 12.4 million viewers and … Read More »

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NFL ‘Sunday Night Football’ Snaps ‘Walking Dead’ Demo Winning Streak

By | Monday November 11, 2013 @ 11:35am PST

Last night’s episode of AMC’s zombie apocalypse series had some surprises, the return of one vital character and some very serious father/son firepower bonding. However, The Walking Dead did not have the upper hand over NFL Sunday Night Football. After wins among adults 18-49 for two weeks in a row, the cable blockbuster was beaten in the key demo last night by the New Orleans Saints 42-17 whooping of the Dallas Cowboys on NBC. The fifth week of Dead’s fourth season saw the series receive a 6.2 rating last night to SNF‘s 7.7. Although the Saints smacked the Cowboys down, with two of the NFL’s top-draw teams playing, last night’s game was up a strong 23% in fast nationals over the week before. The Walking Dead had 7.9 million viewers in the demo to SNF’s 9.9 million on Sunday. Overall the 9 PM airing of the AMC show got 12.2 million total viewers last night to SNF‘s 19.30 million for the night’s game. For The Walking Dead, that’s down from last week’s 8.7 million among the 18-49s and its 13.3 million total viewers.

Related: RATINGS RAT RACE:  NFL ‘Sunday Night Football’ Surges

With a 6.8 rating to the NBC NFL game’s 6.3, early numbers from November 3 had the telecast of the AMC show topping the 8.1 million adults 18-49 who watched the Indianapolis Colts’ 27-24 victory over the Houston Texans that night. That … Read More »

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‘Walking Dead’ Slays NFL ‘Sunday Night Football’ Again In Demo

By | Monday November 4, 2013 @ 12:01pm PST

That’s two in a row on top for the zombie apocalypse. For the second consecutive week AMC’s The Walking Dead has beaten NBC’s NFL Sunday Night Football in the key 18-49 demo to reign supreme in the ratings. In early numbers, the fourth week of the fourth season of the 9 PM ratings powerhouse pulled in 8.7 million viewers among the 18-49s. SNF drew in 8.1 million adults for the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 victory over the Houston Texans last night. That 8% spread is the same as early numbers had last week when The Walking Dead had 8.6 million viewers in the demo compared to 8 million who watched the Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings game on Sunday Night Football. The Walking Dead delivered a 6.8 rating last night while the NBC NFL game got a 6.3. Overall, The Walking Dead attracted 13.3 million viewers, up from last week’s 12.9 million. Preliminary numbers have the viewership for last night’s SNF at 15.34 million. Due to the nature of live events like sports, those SNF numbers could change in the finals later today. The Walking Dead shattered cable records with its Season 4 debut last month.

Ratings Rat Race: NFL ‘Sunday Night Football’ Steady
AMC Renews ‘Walking Dead; For Season 5

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AMC Renews ‘The Walking Dead’ For Season 5, Scott Gimple To Continue As Showrunner

By | Tuesday October 29, 2013 @ 10:22am PDT

No surprise that after shattering cable records with its Season 4 debut this month, the top-rated zombie apocalypse is coming back. AMC today announced there will be a fifth season of The Walking Dead. “We are very happy to make what has to be one of the most anti-climactic renewal announcements ever,” AMC President Charlie Collier said in a statement. “This is a show that has erased traditional distinctions between cable and broadcast. Its expanding base of passionate fans has grown every season, most recently – and most notably – with the season four premiere earlier this month, which broke viewership records for the series and became the biggest non-sports telecast in cable history.” Today’s announcement also stated that Season 4 showrunner Scott Gimple will continue at the helm, serving as executive producer alongside Gale Anne Hurd and Robert Kirkman, who created the comic series on which the TV show is based, as well as David Alpert, Greg Nicotero and Tom Luse. Previously the Dead’s supervising producer, Gimple was promoted earlier this year to EP for Season 4 of the show after the sudden exit of Glenn Mazzara in late 2012.

Related: CAA Signs ‘Walking Dead’s Andrew Lincoln

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CAA Signs ‘Walking Dead’s Andrew Lincoln

By | Wednesday October 23, 2013 @ 12:24pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: CAA has signed Andrew Lincoln, who plays lawman-turned-zombie killer Rick Grimes in AMC’s The Walking Dead. This comes after the agency inked his Walking Dead co-star Norman Reedus, and shortly after the fourth-season premiere drew a record-breaking 16 million viewers. Lincoln, who prior to the series was best known for Love Actually, continues to be repped in the UK by Markham, Frogatt and Irwin, and attorney Geoffry Oblath.

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