Eight years after it began its steady shuffle to the top of the ratings charts, The Walking Dead has experienced occasional bumps in the ratings road. Even so, during a conference call with Wall Street analysts today to discuss AMC Networksstrong third-quarter results, CEO Josh Sapan said the zombie phenomenon has a good shot to remain a top performer for many more years, if not decades.

“The use of the word ‘franchise,’ we don’t take lightly. It’s not a sloppy or casual word,” Sapan said. “We’ve studied the best. Some have been around 30, 40, 50 years. We have a chance for a lot of life in the franchise.”

The current season on AMC has marked a creative return to form for the original show, though spinoff Fear the Walking Dead showed some ratings erosion in its just-concluded season. Crossover episodes involving characters from both series are planned for next year.

Sapan said the franchise is “in great shape and the people who are managing that great shape are motivated.” He said gaming, merchandising and virtual reality represent new revenue horizons for the franchise.

The recent 100th episode celebration at L.A.’s Greek Theatre attested to the show’s durability and “fan zealotry,” Sapan said. AMC’s two-hour live show from the Greek, with reunions of former cast members, sustained a viewership of 2 million-3 million. “That’s a big, big number,” Sapan said, several times larger than many top-tier live programs.

Sapan said the enduring strength of the franchise has enabled AMC Networks to roll out subscription offerings like AMC Premiere, its new ad-free service available on Comcast’s Xfinity platform.