AMC Networks wants to sell the ads that accompany “Walking Dead” on its flagship cable outlet and wherever the series’ zombies might march.
The company that operates cable networks like AMC, IFC and We TV is telling advertisers that it will maintain first-window sales rights when series it owns are made available on ad-supported streaming outlets that might include venues like Pluto TV, among others. The company expects to unveil some of these deals in weeks to come, but believes the arrangement means AMC can help a sponsor create commercials that suit the show no matter where it runs
“Unlike many who are in the process of pulling all their intellectual property back and putting it into a ‘walled garden’ situation, our goal is to make sure that our programming and our shows are seen by as many people as want to on every platform and every device they want to consume it on,” says Kim Kelleher, president of commercial revenue and partnerships at AMC Networks, in an interview. “We are bringing our advertising partners with us.”
The TV industry has canceled all the glitzy live presentations they typically mount at this time every year to lure billions in ad revenue as part of the “upfront” ad-sales market. But the show must go on.
For Kelleher, that means keeping talks with agencies going, even if the current coronavirus crisis is taking some of the flash out of the season. This is her first TV upfront, having joined AMC Networks after stints at magazine publishers Conde Nast and the former Time Inc. She believes her new job has some of the same qualities as those previous ones, as she is selling distinct media brands that appeal to audiences that marketers don’t want to miss.
Among the programs AMC Networks is touting are a new “Walking Dead” series and “Soulmates,” an anthology series that looks at a new test that helps people connect to their soulmates – and some of the dilemmas that may bring. But the company is also offering to help advertisers latch on to past series such as the cult favorite “Halt and Catch Fire,” or “Turn” and “Rectify” in a time when viewers are eager for high-quality drama but may not want to buy yet another subscription service to get a look at it.
“Once we decided to follow the viewer and stop trying to tell them where to go, it really started to become the focal point,” says Kelleher. “They are talking about us. We have to go meet them there.”
AMC Networks has launched a new in-house studio, “The Content Room,” which will work with advertisers to help them tailor their commercials to the venue in which their ads might appear. And AMC has struck a marketing pact with Reddit that will allow advertisers to be part of content the company will develop for passionate fans discussing “Walking Dead” or WE’s “Love After Lockup,” among other series.
AMC Networks is also joining Open AP, the audience-targeting initiative backed by ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal, Fox and Univision. The company last week joined a similar venture backed by AT&’s Xandr. The alliances, says Kelleher, are part of a broader effort to meet advertisers in ways they want, rather than making them take additional steps to set up ad strategy.
Advertisers may not be able to grab a drink or have an hors d’oeuvre at a party, but they will be able to examine AMC’s offerings at a special microsite aimed at the buying community that will grant access to all kinds of content, including clips, information and potentially, full episodes, says Kelleher. Despite the challenge of the times, she says, “we are not taking out foot off of the gas. We are just being more creative about how we are doing it.”