AMC's zombies are back, and they're bringing sponsors with them.
When The Walking Dead -- the network's highest-rated series -- starts season two on Sunday, Pizza Hut and Microsoft will be along for the ride. Pizza Hut is sponsoring online webisodes as well as a mash-up contest for fans with the winner's video airing during a future episode of the show. Microsoft's Bing has created a zombie-themed video that shows the funny side of the undead.
AMC will also be airing Talking Dead, a talk show following each episode that will discuss that week's developments. Subway has signed on as the sponsor of that show.
In addition, movie studios have lined up to show trailers and do other promotions for their movies during episodes of The Walking Dead, according to Scott Collins, executive VP, national advertising sales at AMC and sister channel WE tv.
For AMC, Pizza Hut is a new client, and Microsoft is making a bigger, more consistent commitment to the network than it ever had before. That's because Walking Dead put up ratings numbers that the network has never had before, especially in the younger demos that fast food marketers like Subway crave.
During last year's fourth quarter, Walking Dead averaged a 2.7 rating among adults 18-49 and a 3.0 rating among adults 18-34.
"AMC's traditional median age had kept us out of their consideration set," Collins said. "With Walking Dead having a young-30 median age, it's right in their wheelhouse."
The way Walking Dead is scheduled this year -- with seven episodes in the fourth quarter and six episodes in the first quarter -- has also helped it with sponsors.
With ratings so high, it's an expensive show for marketers who buy spots on AMC. "On the network, those are outrageously high numbers for us. There's a lot of money to soak up, so it's nice to have it between two quarters," Collins says. "We position it as real broadcast prime replacement. It's a great property for us."