Prices for primetime commercials on the Big 4 broadcast networks rose year-over-year during the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2011, according to February 2012 data from TargetCast. Using data from SQAD, the agency determined that the price of an average 30-second spot rose 2% in Q2 to $127,291, while in Q3, prices rose 4% year-over-year to $82,951. Pricing growth slowed in Q4 to 2%, with spots averaging $116,122.
According to the report, prices have either risen or been flat for 7 straight quarters, after previously declining as cable attracted ad dollars away from the broadcast networks.
Fox Attracts Highest Cost
Fox had the highest unit cost among the broadcasters during Q2 2011 as American Idol came to its peak, with the network commanding $229,130 per spot. By contrast, ABC’s average was $127,801, while CBS got $115,905, and NBC trailed distantly with $86,454.
Fox retained the highest average price in Q3, with spots selling for $125,758, followed by ABC ($82,946), CBS ($79,260), and NBC ($61,610). CBS took the second spot in Q4, averaging $116,517 per spot, ahead of ABC ($114,954) and NBC ($76,529), but still well behind Fox ($179,514).
According to survey results released in October 2011 by Ad Age, TV shows that viewers tend to watch live, rather than play back days later, command a premium for marketers. Results from the survey, which measured the costs of running a 30-second commercial in prime time, indicated that NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” challenged Fox’s “American Idol” as the most expensive program for advertisers in 2011. The average cost of a 30-second ad in NBC’s much-watched football contest was $512,367, while it ran between $468,100 and $502,900 for “Idol.” According to Ad Age insight, the tally is relative since “Idol”‘s prices tend to go up as the show reaches its finale, with some spots going for as much as $640,000.
Cable Spot Prices Grow Rapidly
Meanwhile, according to TargetCast, during Q2 2011, the average unit cost for a cable network ranked in the top 15 among adults aged 25-54 in prime was $12,107, representing 15% year-over-year growth. In Q3, the average cost for a primetime spot was $11,711, up 9%, while in Q4, the cable average rose 7% to $13,748.
ESPN Gets Highest Cable Prices
ESPN commanded the highest prices for a primetime spot in Q2 among the top 15 cable networks, at $28,789, followed by TNT at $25,454. ESPN took the top rank again in Q3 at $32,207 per spot, ahead of USA at $18,821. In Q4, the disparity was even greater between the top-ranked ESPN and its closest contender: ESPN topped the list at $59,008 per spot, more than 3 times higher than the second-ranked cable network, TBS ($19,542).