‘Scandal,’ ‘Chicago Fire,’ ‘Supernatural’ Command More Ad Cash From Sponsors When Many Shows Can’t

Many shows' ad prices slump year over year, but not these three, according to Variety survey


What do TV shows about firefighters, Washington D.C. spin doctors, and ghost doctors have in common? The answer: An increasing flow of ad coin.

Given the ratings difficulty most broadcast networks experienced last season, when Fox, NBC and ABC saw total viewership decline and all five English-language broadcasters experienced erosion among viewers between 18 and 49, it comes as little surprise that ad prices for most returning shows have plummeted. But there is a small handful with figures on the rise.

Chicago Fire,” “Scandal” and “Supernatural” aren’t among TV’s biggest generators of viewership or ratings in the advertiser-desired 18 to 49 demographic. But they were able to do something many of their prime-time siblings could not: draw more ad dollars from sponsors, according to findings from a Variety survey of prime-time ad prices.

The Variety survey uses estimates from as many as six media-buying firms as well as information from other sources to determine the average price of a 30-second ad in most prime-time programs scheduled for the 2013-2014 season.

ABC’s “Scandal” commands an average of $186,202 for a 30-second ad this season, according to the Variety survey, compared with an average of $139,668. NBC’s “Chicago Fire” is getting an average of $116,081 for a 30-second ad, nearly two times the $60,058 it was able to secure for a similar commercial last season. And “Supernatural,” a CW show whose time on the air is so long that it once ran on the now-defunct WB network, gets an average of $37,348, compared to the average of $35,123 it was getting last season.

No surprise, two “heavyweight” programs have seen their prices rocket season over season: CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” thanks in no small part to increased ratings for the former and the intense desire for immense live audiences delivered by the latter. But there are some “quieter” programs also punching more than their weight.

The price hikes come while many other TV programs have experienced a year-over-year price drop, according to the survey’s findings. Fox’s venerable “American Idol,” for instance, has seen the average price of an ad drop from $340,825 to $281,600 for Wednesday nights and from $296,002 to $257,936 on Thursdays. Likewise, the average cost of a 30-second spot on ABC’s “Modern Family” has dropped to to $249,025 from $330,908 last season, while the average cost of a 30-second ad in “New Girl” has dipped to $224,366 from $320,940.

TV’s most inexpensive program for advertisers is The CW’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which commands an average of $21,253, according to the Variety survey. The price is lower than that paid for Saturday-night repeats on CBS, NBC and ABC. And the show’s value to sponsors has declined since last season, when it had the popular “Vampire Diaries” as a lead in: Last season, “Beast” secured an average price of $40,699 for a 30-second spot.