AMC is planning on running six-second ads in "The Walking Dead" this season, enlisting TV's top scripted show in the effort to fight ratings declines by making ads less of an imposition.
The network intends to run one six-second commercial between its repeat of the prior week's episode and the start of the new one throughout the first half of the season, starting with its second week Oct. 29. No other ads will appear in that break. AMC is out selling the time now but advertisers haven't bought in yet, according to executives.
Six-second ads have become the innovation du jour among TV networks and digital publishers since YouTube began offering them last year, but TV in particular is looking to clean up commercial clutter as viewers migrate to platforms where there's little or no advertising.
Among TV companies, Fox has been the most aggressive putting six-second spots on the air. It first tried the format this summer during the Teen Choice Awards. Since then it has also run six-second ads during NFL games. It says it plans to do the same in other live sports, both on its broadcast and cable channels.
But there's plenty of debate over the future of such ad units. In theory, most marketers agree that less commercial clutter is good for both advertisers and consumers. Fewer ads increase the chances that viewers will watch and remember them, the argument goes, in part. But there are plenty of questions surrounding the economics. TV networks surely aren't giving marketers discounts for shorter ads, not if they want to maintain ad revenue. And marketers are far from convinced they should pay a premium for these shorter units.
In its NFL games, Fox is charging similar rates for its six-second spots as it does for 15-second ads. A 30-second ad in Fox's Sunday games fetches upwards of $700,000 this season, according to ad buyers.
The cost for one of the six-second slots in "The Walking Dead" is somewhere between the price of a 15-second ad in the show and a 30-second ad, according to a person familiar with the sales talks. A 30-second spot in this season is running advertisers as much as $500,000, according to media buyers. An AMC spokesman declined to comment on pricing.
AMC is considering running more than one six-second ad in the second half of the new season next year.
"The Walking Dead" averaged 11.4 million viewers and a 5.4 ratings in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 demo in its seventh season. That's down from 13.2 million viewers and 6.5 rating in the sixth season, but still better than anything else in scripted TV.