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Crazy prices … but that’s how it goes

May 13, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Already a cultural and ratings success, “The Osbournes” is now a smash hit for MTV’s advertising department.
The Viacom network show has approached the $100,000 mark for a 30-second spot-a pricing record for a regular nonsports cable series, according to media executives. The previous title was claimed by Comedy Central’s “South Park,” which neared the $80,000 to $90,000 level in the late ’90s, according to media executives.
ESPN’s “Sunday Night Football” has been regularly inking deals in the $125,000 to $135,000 unit price range. But beyond sports, no regular cable series price had reached $100,000 until Ozzy Osbourne and his family hit prime time.
Humble beginnings
“The Osbournes” didn’t start out with a big payday. Before the show launched, lucky advertisers secured ad time for $10,000 to $15,000 per 30-second commercial. When ratings began to climb, advertisers raced to buy time, and pricing shot up.
For the week ending May 5, “The Osbournes” season finale was the highest-rated cable series, posting a 3.8 Nielsen Media Research rating and reaching 4.1 million households.
MTV executives, currently in negotiations to renew the Osbourne clan for a new season, would not comment for this story. But it’s estimated that at an average of $40,000 per 30-second spot, MTV could have nabbed $9.6 million in advertising sales for the series that aired at 10:30 p.m. (ET) Tuesdays.
The family was paid about $200,000 for the entire 10-episode run, according to executives familiar with the situation. Now the Osbournes want to cash in. Spearheaded by Ozzy’s wife and manager, Sharon, and their Hollywood talent agency, Endeavor, the Osbournes are angling for a two-year deal that could pay them $20 million.
With “The Osbournes,” MTV has capitalized on viewers’ increasing acceptance of cable TV’s edginess-as FX’s rough cop show “The Shield” has also proved. Some years back, rough language on Comedy Central’s “South Park” propelled that show to high ratings and high ad prices.
“The Osbournes” is a no-holds-barred look at the real life of aging rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his family. Mr. Osbourne’s life takes many comical turns as the bumbling rocker tackles mundane chores such as taking out the garbage.
“There are all these reality programs that allow the average Joe to have their 15 minutes of fame,” said Stacey Lynn Koerner, senior VP, programming analysis, for Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Initiative Media North America, New York. “With `The Osbournes’ we have someone with fame looking like the average Joe.”
Breakthrough
This is a breakthrough show for MTV on many levels-the show is now reaching a broad spectrum of demographics, rather than just its core 12 to 34 viewers.
Because of the racy content, not all advertisers are buying shows such as “The Osbournes” or “The Shield.” “People who are reluctant to advertise on `The Osbournes’ are already reluctant to buy MTV,” said Brad Adgate, senior VP and director of broadcast research for independent Horizon Media, New York. “They are not losing much.”
Next year MTV is looking for the show to be shot in England and the addition of siblings Kelly and Jack’s older sister, who didn’t care to be in the first series. “Ozzy will continue to curse and yell `Sharon!”’ said Bill Carroll, VP, director of programming, Katz Television Group, the New York-based sales rep company. “It’s a simple formula.”