“The Walking Dead” wakes up and fights piracy by releasing global versions earlier

The world is clamoring to watch “The Walking Dead.”
The world is clamoring to watch “The Walking Dead.”
Image: AMC/Frank Ockenfels
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In the coming days, zombies are going to take over the world. Again.

On Sunday, the horror series The Walking Dead kicks off its fourth season on AMC, and its premiere episode is packed with stomach-churning gore, nail-biting suspense and of course, zombies galore. It’s a brutal, bloody show that is seemingly not for everyone—except that everyone seems to be watching. In March, the third season finale drew its largest audience ever, with 12.4 million viewers tuning in, and if the show’s viewing trends continue, Sunday’s ratings should be even higher.

But US audiences won’t be the only ones getting their zombie fix. Within 24 hours of its US premiere, international viewers in more than 125 different countries will be able to watch as well, as Fox International Channels, which broadcasts the show globally, begins its accelerated rollout of the new season. (The new season will once again be split into two eight-episode segments, with the second half premiering early next year).

Previously, the show’s international air dates lagged behind The Walking Dead’s US showings by a week. But FIC was no longer willing to sit by and watch as the show’s rabid fans pirated the latest episodes. “We want to prevent the spoilers for sure, we also want to make sure [international viewers] get the best version of the show—not some pirated version,” Fox International Channels’ chief marketing officer Liz Dolan told TheWrap. “But we also want them to get it super fast.”

Despite the hardships from the near-simultaneous rollout, including the need to swiftly dub each new episodes show into 44 different languages, FIC hopes to goose The Walking Dead’s already-stellar international ratings. (Because Fox International Channels is pay TV, the episodes air “largely uncut,” except for a few trims in Southeast Asian markets, according to an FIC rep.)

In its third season, the show was No. 1 in markets including Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Australia. And no country is safe: “Just last week,” says Dolan, “our team in Japan staged a zombie invasion at a baseball game.”