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‘Friends’ tops ad price list

Sep 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

NBC’s favored “Friends” blew past network sibling “ER” and CBS’s “Survivor” to top the charts this season as the highest-priced show on TV. A 30-second spot on “Friends” averages $455,700, according to Advertising Age’s annual prime-time network pricing survey.
Factors vaulting the 9-year-old “Friends” to the No. 1 spot for the first time include an audience yearning for familiarity in a post-9/11 world, revitalized plot lines, higher ratings and expectations that this likely will be its final year.
“There’s the anticipation that this is probably going to be the last year and so advertisers want to be part of it,” said Stacey Shepatin, VP and director of network buying for Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston. The cost of “Friends” soared 29 percent vs. a year ago; the show’s ratings last season rose a surprising 21 percent in the key 18 to 49 age group with an average Nielsen Media Research 11.9 rating/31 share.
While “Friends” jumped, another pillar of NBC’s lucrative Thursday lineup reached a near-plateau. “ER” remains the second-highest-priced show with an average of $438,514, up only 3 percent from last year. The show has suffered from defections of star cast members and saw a slight ratings drop last season in the 18 to 49 demo.
CBS lost its place as owner of the most expensive show as “Survivor,” which topped last year’s survey with a $445,000 average, dropped to third at $418,750.
The Advertising Age survey is based on estimates provided by media buyers and network executives.
NBC dominates top 10
NBC led all networks this season with an average commercial price of $176,462. NBC had six of the 10 highest-priced shows. CBS was next in average cost at $124,247, and had three of the top 10 shows by price. Fox followed closely at an average of $123,617. ABC, with one in the top 10, came in fourth at $118,850.
The average 30-second prime-time commercial on broadcast networks this season is $115,799, according to the Advertising Age Age survey.
Largely because of CBS’s challenge to NBC on Thursday, the night remains by far the most lucrative in TV with an average price of $166,707. Seven of the top 10 priced shows are on Thursday. The top three are joined by NBC’s “Will & Grace” ($376,617), NBC’s “Scrubs” ($294,667), CBS’s “CSI” ($280,043) and NBC’s “Good Morning, Miami” ($279,813).
“Good Morning, Miami” is the top-priced new show, due to its valuable Thursday time slot between “Will & Grace” and “ER.” Similarly, second-season “Scrubs” is positioned for high pricing between “Friends” and “Will & Grace.”
CBS’s overall average was bumped up by its Monday lineup headlined by “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which averages $301,640, the fifth-highest-priced show. That’s slightly higher than ABC’s “Monday Night Football,” which averages $298,000 in sixth place.
Last year, “MNF” outpriced “Raymond” by 8 percent at $330,200, according to the survey. “MNF” may find prices dropping again next fall if CBS’s spinoff “CSI: Miami” on Monday is as big a hit as its Thursday companion. The show premiered last week to 23.1 million viewers and outdrew “MNF” in household ratings and slightly among 18- to 49-year-olds in its hour, though “MNF” won significantly among men in that age bracket.
Advertisers may sense a new winner on Fox with David E. Kelley’s new “Girls Club,” a drama about female attorneys. The show is priced at an average of $178,400-more than an established Monday show by David E. Kelley, “Boston Public” ($146,887), about life in an urban high school.
“`Boston Public’ is a show that a lot of advertisers have problems with because of the controversial topics covered,” said Hill Holliday’s Ms. Shepatin. “`Girls Club’ is probably cleaner and more advertisers are probably willing to go in there.”