As a broadcast network that appeals more to young, digitally-savvy viewers, The CW routinely brings in the smallest number of live TV viewers. Ads on its programs, as a result, are usually the cheapest on the boob-tube. But not this year.
In our latest annual survey of prime-time broadcast TV ad prices, Ad Age found that two shows on The CW's schedule -- the gritty, superhero-themed "Arrow" and the bloodsucker-focused "Vampire Diaries" -- are drawing average prices for 30-second commercials that are greater than some prominent selections on NBC and CBS, as well as some of the lower-rated offerings on those outlets and ABC.
Would you ever have imagined that a program on the CW, which is in the midst of trying to turn around substantial year-over-year ratings declines, would ever be seen in advertisers' eyes as having more value than a drama produced by "Law & Order" mogul Dick Wolf? Or one of CBS's popular "CSI" procedurals? Or a serious Thursday-night news magazine anchored by Brian Williams?
Well, that day has come. The average cost of a 30-second spot on "Arrow" is $62,995, while the average price for a 30-second spot on "Vampire Diaries" is $61,887, according to the Ad Age survey. Meantime, the average price of a 30-second ad during NBC's "Rock Center" is $30,950. The average price of a 30-second spot in NBC's Dick Wolf-produced "Chicago Fire" is $60,058. And the average price of a 30-second ad in CBS's "CSI: NY" is $58,206.
The two CW shows' prices also handily trump those of ABC's Friday-night "What Would You Do" as well as the encore programming that populates CBS's and NBC's Saturday -night plans.
Do the prices match the audience? Advertisers typically shell out bigger bucks for those programs that draw larger audiences in the 18-to-49 age demographic. This season through Oct. 14, "Vampire Diaries" had an average 18-to-49 audience of about 2 million people, according to Nielsen, while "Arrow" drew an average audience 18-to-49-audience of about 1.69 million. "Chicago Fire," meanwhile, attracted about 2.5 million in that demographic, "CSI: NY" got around 1.88 million and "Rock Center" drew a paltry-in-comparison 1.19 million.
"'Chicago Fire,' 'Rock Center' and 'CSI: NY' are all older-skewing, lower-midtier-rated programs with audiences that can be found anywhere on the primetime schedule," explained Billie Gold, VP-director, buying and programming research at Carat. "They are not shows whose viewing crosses over to other platforms and they get very little social buzz or social-media interaction."
"Vampire Diaries" has been on the air since 2009, and has arguably become the CW's flagship scripted program as Monday night's "Gossip Girl" has grown long in the tooth. The drama has proved popular among the younger half of the 18-to-49 demo, lending the show some heft among advertisers. For its part, "Arrow" has, because of its comic-book connections, "that rare potential of reaching young engaged males that are into the genre and very hard to reach on TV," Ms. Gold said. "The harder the audience is to reach, the more a network can capitalize on it and ask for a higher cost. "
Just because the shows appear to be fetching higher-than-expected prices doesn't mean buyers are happy to fork over the money. Despite the opportunity "Arrow" may offer, Ms. Gold added, "advertisers are still probably paying way too much for it given its ratings , but it's what the market will bear."