US Television Fall schedules advertising price list

by Daniel on September 18, 2003

Everyone should take a look at this; it shows what 30-second advertising slots in the Fall schedules went for this this year. Most expensive show is Friends (obviously), followed by “Will and Grace” (surprising?). I don’t really have a handle on US media, but I can’t believe that a lame one-joke effort like W&G is pulling in the ratings, so it must have really good demographics (the pink economy, I guess). I’m also surprised that Monday Night Football is only in the middle of the table and cheaper than “The Simpsons”. Anyway, enjoy.

Update: Closer perusal shows that the priciness of Will & Grace is unlikely to have anything to do with the pinkness or otherwise of its viewers. It’s just that CBS seems to totally own Thursday night, and W&G is in a slot between “Friends” and “ER”. The mystery is actually why “Scrubs” and “Coupling” are comparatively weaker; they’re both pretty bad, but I wouldn’t have said that they were between 10% and 30% worse than Will & Grace.



RJ 09.18.03 at 1:07 pm

You forgot the link :)


James Joyner 09.18.03 at 1:22 pm

Interesting, especially W&G. I’ve never seen more than a few snippets of the show, as it never appealed to me. As for MNF, not surprising that it’s not that expensive. They’ve got two announcers off-screen and just film a live sporting event.


dsquared 09.18.03 at 1:24 pm

Hmmmm yes a link, that might be a good idea ….

James: sorry, this is the cost of buying a 30-second advertising slot rather than the cost of production


James Riley 09.18.03 at 1:35 pm

I’m surprised “60 Minutes” is so cheap, considering that show continues to draw big ratings and the demographics of the viewership is probably desirable.


raj 09.18.03 at 2:37 pm

It would probably be an error to assume that W&G’s appeal is from the “pink economy.” To many of us in the “pink economy,” its joke grew stale years ago. I suspect its appeal is its draw to the female audience.

If you look at it closely, W&G is nothing more than an updating of I Love Lucy.


Mike Kozlowski 09.18.03 at 3:05 pm

You’re underestimating W&G’s ratings. Some slightly outdated data: 2002/2002-05-28-top-tv-shows.htm

Note especially its high ranking in the (as it’s always phrased) coveted 18-49 demographic.


dsquared 09.18.03 at 3:07 pm

Christ, I’d never have guessed. It irritates the crap out of me. Though thinking about it, the missuss watches it religiously.


Kevin Brennan 09.18.03 at 3:10 pm

Actually, “Will and Grace” does does quite well in the ratings. The thing is, over here it’s on the same stations as “Friends” and airs right afterwards.


raj 09.18.03 at 3:16 pm

I’m not disputing the fact that W&G is highly rated. What I am disputing is the assertion that its high advertising price is due to the “pink economy.” I suppose it’s possible. But I tend to doubt that there are enough members of the “pink economy” who watch it to make much of a difference.

We haven’t watched it in some time.


dsquared 09.18.03 at 3:40 pm

Nah, Kevin’s got the answer; it inherits the Friends audience, so it has massive non-pink ratings due to the pure luck of scheduling. You could put “Half an Hour of Someone Talking Very Slowly About NAFTA” in that time slot and it would still be the second most expensive.


Xhenxhefil 09.18.03 at 4:56 pm

I’m surprised “60 Minutes” is so cheap, considering that show continues to draw big ratings and the demographics of the viewership is probably desirable.

Desirable demographics are generally “young enough to be affected by advertising”, with the added factor that the younger a consumer is, the more years they’ll spend as a consumer of the product if they become convinced of its worth.

Old people have proven spending power, but advertisers don’t focus on that so much as potential. Kind of like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.


brayden 09.18.03 at 7:02 pm

The reason MNF’s advertising price is so low has nothing to do with ratings. MNF, although it’s ratings have dropped off compared to earlier years, still rates in the top 10 or even top 5 every week. Last week MNF was rated number one with about 4 million more viewers than the next closest, CSI.

I believe that advertising price is decided by a combination of the overall rating and the demographics of regular viewers. Companies pay a lot more to advertise to the prime audience – 20 year olds. Corporations feel like they can still influence the tastes of younger viewers, while the typical MNF viewer, middle-aged man, probably has a fairly stable set of preferences. MNF advertising is dominated by beer companies, vying for the preferences of younger beer drinkers.

Friends, on the other hand, is watched by young people of both sexes. There is more competition for advertising space – more than just beer companies want in. I hate to sound like an economist, but the tight competition for advertising space elevates the prices. W&G has a very similar audience – lots of young college kids or married couples.

I’m a little surprised that Scrubs doesn’t have a higher price. It directly follows Friends, and I can’t imagine the audience demographic changes much. Besides, I personally like Scrubs. Why wouldn’t everybody?


Mike Kozlowski 09.18.03 at 7:11 pm

I should find it disturbing that it takes a discussion of sitcoms to make me feel knowledgeable in the Crooked Timber crowd, but I’ll take what I can get. Anyway:
1. NBC, not CBS, on Thursday nights.
2. Will and Grace doesn’t follow Friends directly; it’s actually the second anchor of NBC’s “Must See TV”, at 9:00. Seinfeld used to hold that spot down, and it did a rather better job of it. (ER takes the 10:00 slot to finish the night strong, although its ratings are declining, too.)
3. The middle shows, at 8:30 and 9:30, almost invariably suck (“30 Minutes of NAFTA” couldn’t be worse than “Suddenly Susan”), but get decent ratings because of their sandwiching.


Walt Pohl 09.18.03 at 7:36 pm

“Scrubs” is a funny show, and anyone who thinks otherwise is, depending on their political leanings, either a pinko commie, or a yellow-bellied fascist.


dsquared 09.18.03 at 7:37 pm

I quite liked “Suddenly Susan”, if it was the one with Brooke Shields in it.


Jacob T. Levy 09.18.03 at 8:04 pm

D-squared, I think that’s the first time I’ve *ever* heard anyone admit that.

There was a good NYT article on the phenomenon of the crappy-Thursday-at-8:30/9:30 show last year. The anchor shows– 8 and 9– have to be appealing to the audience in their own right. But they tend to get very expensive, very quickly, as the producers and the actors realize that they’re indispensable– they extract almost as much out of NBC as NBC makes on them. So the juicy profits are to be had in the carry-over shows between the anchors. C’mon, you know the list: Good Morning, Miami. Suddenly Susan. Boston Common. Jesse. Veronica’s Closet. On and on it goes… When a show in the 8:30 or 9:30 slot gets sufficiently popular in its own right, it’s farmed off to another anchor slot (Tuesday at 8 or 9, for example). Otherwise it’ll grow expensive and eat up the profits.

So the goal is, roughly, to have a show that’s just-barely-not-crappy-enough to force vast quantities of intertial viewers to change the channel. If it’s better than that, the producers will start to believe that the good ratings have to do with the show, and not with its surroundings, and ask for more money. If it’s worse than that and actually starts making viewers rip out their eyeballs in the few seconds it takes them to reach the remote, it’s counterproductive and gets cancelled.

I find Scrubs very funny in its own right– funnier than either Friends or WG, at this point– and expect it to be farmed off to Tuesday night at some point, unless they’re grooming it to take one of the Thursday anchor slots when Friends ends.


Highway 09.18.03 at 8:18 pm

Jacob, I think it’s probably that last one. Scrubs was a Tuesday night show, IIRC, for it’s premier year. They moved it to Thursday last year, probably to strengthen it for the future and may indeed be intending to ‘promote’ it to the 8:00 slot. Personally, I was disappointed in the move to Thursday, as that conflicts with the CBS ‘reality’ show (Survivor, Amazing Race) and means I never watch it. I do like the alternative ‘just-barely-not-crappy-enough to force vast quantities of intertial[sic] viewers to change the channel’ theory, tho. But isn’t that most of sitcom-land?


phil 09.18.03 at 9:17 pm

Scrubs is one of the few sitcoms worth watching.


jianxia 09.18.03 at 9:47 pm

I, too, must take exception to your description of “Scrubs” as “pretty bad” and “weaker” than W&G.


Russell Arben Fox 09.18.03 at 9:47 pm

I’m coming late to this, but who can disagree with Jacob T. Levy and Walt Pohl? Scrubs was just about the only funny network show on the tube all last year, as well as the year before. Not getting Scrubs puts one perilously close to being a bonehead, in my book.


G. DeeDee 09.18.03 at 11:46 pm

I don’t know why I am surprised that television shows with mainly black actors are less than half the price. I shouldn’t be.

The eternal optimist in me, I suppose.


Anthony C 09.19.03 at 12:40 am

What, have I stumbled upon some sort of humourless alternative universe here? Will and Grace is very, very funny. OK, it’s not Frasier funny. But it IS funny. I know people from all walks of life who enjoy it. What’s NOT to enjoy?



Tim 09.19.03 at 3:13 am


You really don’t have a handle on US media, then. ;-)


Tim 09.19.03 at 3:20 am

I don’t really have a handle on US media, but I can’t believe that a lame one-joke effort like W&G is pulling in the ratings

You really don’t have a handle on US media, then. ;-)


easytiger 09.19.03 at 4:09 am

Another hand raised for Scrubs. :-)


laura 09.19.03 at 5:49 am

Oh, yes, definitely Scrubs. I thought W & G started off pretty well and has grown increasingly shrill and unfunny, with zero character development. I suspect there are a fair number of people who keep it on out of habit but don’t actually watch it like they used to. (By “I suspect,” I mean, of course “this is what me and my friends do.”)

I seem to recall that when Scrubs was moved to thursdays, the network said that they thought it was a show with promise that had been in a bad time slot, so they were trying to protect it and give it the better exposure of the thursday slot. Clearly with an eye toward promoting it to be an anchor show at some point in the future.


Richard Bayley 09.19.03 at 11:04 am

Is this an appropriate time for a regular UK visitor to “CT” to mention how fun this thread is? Or is this yet another disgraceful example of academia “dumbing down” ?
BTW, have US viewers had the chance to watch “Father Ted” (RIP) yet ? I presume that the most likely home would be BBC America.


Dave 09.19.03 at 12:13 pm

Hey, I liked “Suddenly Susan” too, but I don’t get “W&G” at all.
I’d love to know what advertising during “Father Ted” costs: I don’t see the US getting it. If it is on the BBC in the States, I can all to easily see idiots like Andrew Sullivan taking it as evidence of systematic anti-Catholic bias.


Geoff 09.19.03 at 2:57 pm

To throw my 2 cents in, I don’t know what NBC has managed to do it, but the *original* British “Coupling” –it’s been running for several seasons on the BBC in the UK — is hilarious. It made its way like wildfire around a local university campus. I highly recommend that you give it a try; the 1st season’s episodes are available now on DVD. The Britishisms can be a little off-putting at first, but once you get used to them, you’ll laugh pretty hard.


Scott Martens 09.19.03 at 4:44 pm

Yeah, let me join the chorus too. I saw a few episodes of Scrubs on Dutch TV and I liked it too. My wife is a Brooke Shields fan, so I’ve actually seen just about every excrutiatingly painful episode of “Suddenly Susan.” Lord, it was bad.

I’m indifferent to Will & Grace, but my understanding is that it has a good audience with younger viewers. Only old people watch 60 Minutes, so its revenue’s been falling for years, even though its market is pretty large. Getting to that youth market is very important if you sell tampons or Clearasil.

Figuring out what age group is a programme’s target demographic is pretty easy: Look at the ads. Tampons: 8-20. Music: 15-35. Small cars: 25-40. SUV’s: 30-45. Lexus: 45+.


Paul Watson 09.21.03 at 12:40 am

The comment re the shows on the half-hour needing to be in a lesser league than the 8 and 9 o’clockers rings true.

I suspect that another distinction between Friends and W&G could be found in their respective (female-targeted) ad contents. Friends ads (I’m guessing) would target the zippy, achieving modern woman, while W&G ads would spruik chocolate and “now with 71% more shiny effervescence!” shampoo to her rather less secure, pyjama-clad alter-ego.

In other words, “pinkness” be damned – W&G is comfort food for everyone’s inner frump.


Jason McCullough 09.24.03 at 3:00 am

“I quite liked “Suddenly Susan”, if it was the one with Brooke Shields in it.”

This is the first time I’ve felt comfortable declaring an opinion of yours TOTALLY INSANE.

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