An analysis by independent media agency TargetCast tcm shows the average cost per unit for a primetime spot on network television in Q3 dropped 16% to $83,916 (compared to costs a year ago)—slightly more than in recent quarters when declines were in single digits. FOX had the highest unit cost at around $121,000, while ABC, CBS and NBC were all in the $70,000-$80,000 range.
Gary Carr, SVP/Executive Director of National Broadcast at TargetCast tcm, said average pricing was affected by two main factors – lower ratings and a tough economy. “Even without counting the Olympics, which ran in 3Q last year, ratings among adults aged 25-54 (A25-54) were down roughly 10% versus the same time in 2008. No new broadcast network programs caught on with audiences this summer,” said Carr. “Furthermore, although the scatter market firmed a bit after six months of recession-driven problems, dollars in the market were down.”
In contrast to performance on the broadcast networks, ad-supported cable showed continued ratings growth due to original scripted series, newsworthy events and new reality shows. The Top 15 rated cable networks’ ratings were up nearly 5% among A25-54. Four cable networks got particularly good ratings: FOX News was up big due to Michael Jackson tributes and controversial commentators; TLC scored big due to the travails of Jon & Kate Gosselin of Jon & Kate Plus 8; USA had a big hit with Royal Pains; and TNT continued to do well with The Closer.
Although, even with cable ratings up, the difficult economy drove overall cable dollars lower, the average unit cost in primetime for the Top 15 rated cable networks on A25-54 was up 5% to a little more than $10,000. At the top of the list were ESPN at $27,000, and TNT at $17,000.
The TargetCast tcm analysis, using syndicated research and tracking data from the NetCosts system, examined actual reported spending for primetime ads on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and all ad-supported cable networks to compute an average unit cost for each network.