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Zombies Generate Big Business in Upfront

In an upfront where demand appears to be less than robust, AMC Networks finds itself in the unusual position of having more money coming in than it knows what to do with.

Buyers interested in buying original programs on AMC, including top rated The Walking Dead, are being told by the network that they are over-registered of its original programming, which means advertisers want to buy more commercials than will be available in the 2013-14 season.

"The marketplace response to AMC originals has been incredibly strong so, as anyone would, we are taking a moment to do our best to both accommodate the right mix of incumbent advertiser needs as well as respond to the marketplace," said Scott Collins, executive VP of ad sales for AMC and WE tv.

While that's a good problem for AMC, some buyers said they were concerned that the situation could mean they might have to buy more commercials in AMC's movies in order to get some of the few spots in Walking Dead or Mad Men. They said AMC has relatively few hours of attractive original programming compared to its total schedule. Prices are also expected to jump for spots because ratings have shot up. AMC is also seeking big price increases on a cost-per-thousand viewers (CPM) basis, but in an otherwise slow moving market, buyers are resisting severe CPM inflation.

AMC has added unscripted original programs to its lineup and has cited its original programming as a reason for recent ad revenue increases. In the first quarter, ad revenue was up 26.9% to $164 million.

"Our programming has probably competitively outperformed, led by a number of shows some of you are familiar with, probably most notably The Walking Dead, and that has put us in a very good position in terms of desirability for advertisers," AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan told analysts at a conference earlier this month. "So we come out of a pretty strong scatter market driven in part by the desirability of The Walking Dead on AMC, supported by Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and the return of The Killing."