Changing the TV Ad Game — How One Major Broadcast Net Is Mining Gold From a Former Wasteland

Jun 30, 2014  •  Post A Comment

With the competition for ad dollars in television tighter than ever, broadcasters can no longer afford to essentially go dark during the summer months, and CBS's scripted summer hit "Under the Dome" is helping to transform those months, once thought of as a wasteland from a business standpoint, into ad revenue.

Writing in B&C, Jon Lafayette reports that the success of the drama series last year made it a money maker, and CBS is taking steps to ensure it cashes in on the show in its second season.

"Media buyers expect season 2 to generate ratings similar to last year and have paid nearly 60% more for spots," Lafayette writes. "For CBS, the supernatural Stephen King show was set up to have its production costs covered before it even aired last year, thanks to international distribution deals and an exclusive streaming agreement with Amazon.com. Once the ratings rolled in, the ad revenue was pure gravy."

Season 1 of "Dome," consisting of 13 episodes, generated almost $39 million in ad revenue, the story reports, citing Kantar Media. "That contributed to a 13% increase in ad revenue at the network during the third quarter," Lafayette notes.

Said Linda Rene, executive VP of primetime sales and innovation for CBS: “The money follows the eyeballs and so the more eyeballs you bring to the set, the more money you get. Everybody was very excited about it last year, so there was a lot of interest in it. Now it’s a proven entity so everyone wants to run in it. It clearly is very important to be on the schedule for movie studios, but it’s a strong demographic, so it will work for every category."

Rene noted that season two is well-sold, but she declined to reveal numbers.

"CBS was able to sell 30-second spots in the first season of 'Under the Dome' for an average of $108,000, according to SQAD’s NetCosts service," the report notes. "That rate breaks down to a $56 cost-per-thousand-viewers in the adults 18-49 demo, a premium to the $48 CPM CBS generated for all of its third-quarter ad sales."

Media buyers have reportedly said commercials in season two are selling for about $170,000.

CBS is hoping to broaden its summer success story. "This year, CBS is adding another highly anticipated scripted show to its summer schedule with 'Extant,' starring Halle Berry," the report notes.

Rene adds: “There isn’t a client that’s coming in and spending money that doesn’t want those shows in their mix. Those are the hot shows."

A year-round programming model makes sense to buyers, the report notes.

Sam Armando, senior VP and director of strategic intelligence at Starcom MediaVest Group’s SMGx unit, said: “The broadcasters don’t go dark in the summer and neither do our clients’ businesses."

Adds Dave Campanelli, senior VP, director of national broadcast at Horizon Media: “I think it’s great what networks are doing during the summer. Cable nets have had a lot of success with summer shows and I think it’s important for the networks to get back in that game."

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