Special Report

America's Most Expensive TV Shows

Everyone talks about how expensive it is to advertise during the Super Bowl, but regular old prime time television isn’t exactly cheap. According to a recent report, many of the top shows command hundreds of thousands of dollars for just a 30-second spot.

Adweek surveyed media buyers about the cost to advertise on the major networks during prime time for the fall 2013-2014 schedule. According to the survey, 30 seconds of ad time for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” cost $570,000, making it the most expensive show on which to buy advertising. The most expensive non-sports show, CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother,” runs at $326,230. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the TV shows making the most in advertising.

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There are some newer shows commanding big ad dollars, notably NBC’s “Blacklist” and “The Crazy Ones” on CBS. Each pulls in excess of $175,000 for a 30-second spot within the first season. However, the truly premium-cost shows are more seasoned. Each of the 10 has been on air for at least three years, and four have been running for at least a decade. “The Simpsons,” which has the fifth-most expensive ad spot, is entering its 25th season.

Prime time TV slots are in high demand among both show producers and advertisers. And within prime time, earlier is definitely better. Four of the top five programs start at 8:00 p.m. Only one of the top 10, ABC’s “Scandal,” ends after 10:00 p.m.

Networks can demand more for an ad spot that more people see. So, not surprisingly, the shows with the most expensive ad spots tend to have much better viewership. Of the 10 most expensive prime time shows, seven are in the top 20 for the number of homes reached on a weekly basis. Most of these shows reach more than 10 million viewers each week, and “Sunday Night Football” is watched by 21.3 million, according to Adweek.

Perhaps most important to ad buyers, these shows are very successful among the key purchasing group of 18 to 49 year olds. Six of the 10 prime time shows with the most expensive ad space reach the most 18 to 49 year olds. Each of these six is viewed by at least 5 million people on a weekly basis. All 10 are in the top 20 for ratings for the demographic, as well.

The distribution of the most expensive shows among the big four networks is relatively even, with each holding at least two of the 10 most expensive prime time shows. NBC does manage to have two of the top three, with “Sunday Night Football” and “The Voice.”

24/7 Wall St. reviewed Adweek’s survey of media buyers. We identified the 10 regularly scheduled programs with the highest average cost for a 30-second spot, according to the survey. All rankings are for prime time only, which runs between 8:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., and only for regularly scheduled programming. Ratings and other viewership figures were provided by Nielsen, and are for the 2013-2014 season, through October 13. Unless otherwise specified, all viewership figures are for people two years of age or older. “The Voice” airs twice weekly, and the viewership and ad cost figures for both days are listed.

These are the TV shows charging the most in advertising.

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