TV Ad Prices: Football, ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘Big Bang Theory,’ ‘Blacklist’ Top the List

Charts: TV's Top 25 Shows and Night-by-Night Breakdown of Broadcast Series

The flesh-eating creatures from AMC’s gory “The Walking Dead” have started to eat into football’s pricing power, according to Variety’s annual analysis of primetime TV advertising costs.

Advertisers are willing to pay more for a package of spots across multiple airings of “Dead” than they are for a 30-second spot in a broadcast of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The ESPN pigskin showcase was the second most-expensive program for advertisers in last year’s survey, coming in just behind NBC’s ”Sunday Night Football.” This year it ranks No. 4.

The average cost of a 30-second ad in “Monday Night Football” is an eye-popping $397,898, according to the Variety analysis, which uses estimates collected from as many as six different media-buying firms as well as other sources. No scripted program on broadcast can top it. Yet the cost of a package on “Dead” comes to an average of $413,695. The shift comes as the average price “Dead” can command rises nearly 27%, while “MNF” prices fall nearly 2.5%.

To be sure, the shift also comes after CBS launched its new eight-week “Thursday Night Football,” which prompted some ad buyers earlier this year to wonder if the market for live football might be nearing saturation.

On an apples-to-apples basis, one might not compare a package of ads in a cable drama to a single 30-second ad berth in a sports broadcast. Yet “Dead” is worth including, because it represents an increasingly powerful way for Madison Avenue to reach one of its most elusive targets – young male consumers. And its unit price is as rich as that being paid for some NFL game time.

The figures in Variety’s commercial-price analysis should be taken as directional indicators, not hard figures written in stone. TV ad prices vary wildly from one sponsor to the next, depending upon the relationship a marketer or media-buying agency has with a particular network, or even whether a TV ad buy is part of a larger package that includes digital advertising.

Pore over the data. Mull over the fact that “Sunday Night Football” continues to be TV’s priciest ad buy, or that CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” – the most expensive program for advertisers on broadcast — commands more on in its scheduled Monday night airings (where it moved to make room for “Thursday Night Football”) than it does in its regular post-football Thursday slot. Marvel at the price advertisers seem to be paying for Fox’s flagging reality series “Utopia.” NBC’s “Blacklist,” to no one’s surprise, is among the biggest year-to-year gainers with a 62% spike in prices for its sophomore year.

Variety will post more findings based on its survey in the coming days. To start, here’s a list of the top 25 priciest shows, with year-to-year comparisons, followed by a night-by-night rundown of prices for broadcast programs scheduled to air this season in fall or midseason slots.


NBC Sunday Night Football (NBC) 2014: $623,425; 2013: $628,000 (-0.8%)

Thursday Night Football (CBS) 2014: $492,500; 2013: n/a

The Walking Dead* (AMC) Sunday 2014: $413,695; 2013:$326,000 (+26.9%)

Monday Night Football (ESPN) 2014: $397,898; 2013: $408,000 (-2.48%)

The Big Bang Theory (CBS) Monday 2014: $327,885; 2013: n/a

The Big Bang Theory (CBS) Thursday 2014: $322,891; 2013: $317,160 (+1.8%)

The Blacklist (NBC) Monday 2014: $294,586; 2013: $174,943 (+62.7%)

American Idol (Fox) Wednesday: 2014 :$266,333; 2013: $281,600 (-5.4%)

The Voice (NBC) Monday 2014: $262,041; 2013: $259,240 (+1.08%)

The Voice (NBC) Tuesday 2014: $254,485; 2013: $273,714 (-7.02%)

American Idol (Fox)Thursday 2014: $249,566; 2013: $257,926 (-3.24%)

Modern Family (ABC) Wednesday 2014: $226,935; 2013 $249,025 (-8.9%)

State of Affairs (NBC) Monday 2014: $224,060; 2013: n/a

Scandal (ABC) Thursday 2014: $217,423; $2013:186,202 (+16.8%)

The Simpsons (Fox) Sunday 2014: 205,885; 2013: $221,571 (-7.1%)

The Blacklist (NBC) Thursday 2014: $200,166; 2013: n/a

Gotham (Fox) Monday 2014: $192,111; 2013: n/a

Sleepy Hollow (Fox) Monday 2014: $188,232; 2013: $131,933 (+42.7%)

New Girl (Fox) Tuesday 2014: $176,000; 2013: $224,366 (-21.6%)

The Following (Fox) Monday 2014: $168,437; 2013: $264,300 (-36.3%)

2 Broke Girls (CBS) Monday 2014: $166,533; 2013: $175,344 (-5.02%)

How To Get Away With Murder (ABC) Thursday 2014: $164,938; 2013: n/a

Gracepoint (Fox) Thursday 2014: $162,717; 2013: n/a

Family Guy (Fox) Sunday 2014: $160,240; 2013: $196,092 (-22.4%)

Saturday Night Football (ABC) Saturday 2014: $159,916; 2013: $115,000 (+39%)

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) Thursday 2014: $158,411; 2013: $209,542 (-24.4%)

*Price is for a package of ads that run across multiple airings of an episode




America’s Funniest Home Videos: $55,929
Once Upon A Time: $145,582
Galavant (midseason): $72,400
Resurrection: $146,676
American Crime (midseason): $93,475
Revenge: $115,224

60 Minutes: $97,433
Madam Secretary: $81,515
The Good Wife: $88,867
CSI: $96,747

Bob’s Burgers: $95,233
The Simpsons: $205,885
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: $150,367
Family Guy: $160,240
Mulaney: $120,579
Weird Loners (midseason): $114,993

Football Night in America: $90,233
Football Night in America 2: $132,770
NBC Sunday Night Football: $623,425


Dancing With the Stars: $127,617
The Bachelor (midseason): $115,105
Castle: $148,012

The Big Bang Theory: $327,885
2 Broke Girls: $166,533
Mom: $148,935
Scorpion: $146,272
NCIS: Los Angeles: $126,533

Gotham: $192,111
Wayward Pines: $159,992
Sleepy Hollow: $188,232
The Following: $168,437

The Voice: $262,041
The Blacklist: $284,586
State of Affairs (midseason): $224,060
The Apprentice: $64,900
Aquarius (midseason): $132,500

The Originals: $33,961
Jane The Virgin: $22,803


Selfie: $66,704
Manhattan Love Story: $62,370
Fresh Off The Boat (midseason): $67,642
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: $154,374
Marvel’s Agent Carter: $142,758
Forever: $82,815

NCIS: $143,204
NCIS: New Orleans: $125,382
Person of Interest: $132,738

Utopia: $145,789
New Girl: $176,280
The Mindy Project: $123,632
Last Man on Earth (midseason): $117,170

The Voice: $254,485
Marry Me: $117,461
One Big Happy (midseason): $90,000
About A Boy: $109,791
Mission Control (midseason): $145,000
Chicago Fire: $144,177

The Flash: $56,378
Supernatural: $42,598


The Middle: $131.021
The Goldbergs: $108,069
Modern Family: $226,935
Black-ish: $131,160
Nashville: $104,511
Whispers (midseason): $104,812

Survivor: $121,638
Criminal Minds: $131,963
Stalker: $113,817

Hell’s Kitchen: $109,440
American Idol (midseason): $266,333
Red Band Society: $117,232
Empire (midseason): $138,200

Mysteries of Laura: $84,465
Law & Order: SVU: $92,207
Chicago P.D.: $121,400

Arrow: $49,799
The 100: $27,725


Grey’s Anatomy: $159,411
The Taste (midseason): $49,275
Scandal: $217,423
How To Get Away With Murder: $164,938
Secrets & Lies (midseason): $98,000

NFL Thursday Night Football: $492,500
The Big Bang Theory (post-football): $322,891
The Millers (ost-football): $135,283
Two and A Half Men (post-football): $147,442
The McCarthys (post-football): $120,977
Elementary (post-football): $125,526

Bones: $124,093
American Idol (midseason): $249,566
Gracepoint: $162,717
Glee (midseason): $125,075

The Biggest Loser: $88,837
Parks & Recreation (midseason): $110,000
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (midseason): $71,666
Bad Judge: $91,000
A to Z: $91,580
The Blacklist (midseason): $200,166
Parenthood: $96,066
Allegiance (midseason): $122,850

The Vampire Diaries: $71,965
Reign: $29,848


Last Man Standing: $68,437
Cristela: $75,607
Shark Tank: $118,229
20/20: $68,420

The Amazing Race: $74,579
Hawaii Five-0: $69,128
Blue Bloods: $84,850

Masterchef Junior: $99,296
Utopia: $81,341
Backstrom (midseason): $89,890

Dateline NBC: $49,200
Grimm: $117,877
Constantine: $84,826

Whose Line Is It Anyway: $26,255
Whose Line Repeat: $26,650
America’s Next Top Model: $26,114


Saturday Night College Football: $159,916
Saturday Night Movie: $25,891

Crimetime Saturday: $22,212
Crimetime Saturday 2: $24,517
48 Hours: $33,163

Sports: $83,300
Drama Repeats 8 p.m.: $28,473
Drama Repeats 9 p.m.: $28,473

Encores 8 p.m.: $19,304
Encores 9 p.m.: $19,495
Saturday Night Live Encores: $26,500

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