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McPricey ABC Leads Way With 'Grey' This Fall

Exclusive: Sunday Night Costs the Most in Annual Ad Age TV Price Survey

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Doctors do make more than housewives.

"Grey's Anatomy" holds the crown this fall as the most expensive show on network TV, trouncing last year's leader, "Desperate Housewives."
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Photo: ABC

No. 1 'Grey's': McDreamy ain't cheap.

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The 2007 Ad Age TV Price Survey
The medical drama is bringing $419,000 per 30-second spot, according to an Ad Age survey of media-buying executives, topping the $394,000 the ladies from Wisteria Lane took in last fall.

The network that carries them both, Walt Disney's ABC, is the most expensive for advertisers in the first half of the 2007-2008 broadcast-network TV season, thanks to three of its shows in the top 10.

This fall, "Grey's" leads the top 10 list of costliest shows, followed by NBC's "Sunday Night Football" ($358,000); Fox's "The Simpsons" ($315,000); NBC's "Heroes" ($296,000); ABC's "Desperate Housewives" ($270,000); CBS's "CSI" ($248,000); and CBS's "Two and Half Men" ($231,000). CBS's "Survivor: China" and ABC's "Private Practice" tied for ninth, with $208,000 per 30-second spot. All prices reflect the average price paid by media buyers surveyed.

But come this spring, "American Idol" could topple them all.

Omissions
The way the broadcast-TV season has evolved, most networks' spring schedules now include a good number of new shows that make their debuts after January. This year's survey only covers the fall shows and does not include network-TV's biggest juggernauts, including Fox's "American Idol" and "24" and ABC's "Lost."

With so many midseason replacements coming up this season, media buyers surveyed had only some preliminary prices available for spring shows. Media executives and other executives said "Idol" is already fetching 30-second ad prices ranging from $500,000 to more than $700,000 (depending on when in the run of the program marketers wish their ads to appear) and is expected to surpass "Grey's" top price. Meanwhile, prices on "24" are said to be hovering around $300,000.

ABC wins the pricing battle not only because of "Grey's" but also due to its Sunday-night lineup. On that night, an ad on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" costs $198,000, followed in the 9 p.m. slot by "Desperate Housewives" and its top ten price, while a 30-second ad on "Brothers and Sisters" costs $182,000. ABC can also claim a top ten price for its "Grey's," spinoff on Wednesdays, "Private Practice."

Cheaper 'Housewives'
Sunday continues to be the costliest night on TV. And it does so despite a drop in the prices of 30-second ads for two of the night's hit shows, "Desperate Housewives" and "Extreme Makeover." According to previous Advertising Age surveys, "Housewives" commanded $394,000 for 2006-2007 and a $439,500 for 2005-2006.

Many programs on Sunday night command top dollar. Fox can claim "The Simpsons" as a top earner. The rest of the network's lineup that evening -- much of it animated fare that draws elusive young male viewers -- also rakes in the cash. An ad on "Family Guy," for example, costs $198,000. Meanwhile, NBC's "Sunday Night Football" is similarly rewarded for its male demos with the second-place price of $358,000. CBS rakes in $140,000 for its Sunday night returning drama, "Shark."

Advertisers, particularly movie studios, have long coveted Thursday night as an important way to reach consumers before they make choices for the weekend, and the evening continues as one of the week's most costly. Not only does "Grey's Anatomy" have a roost there, but so does the backbone of the CBS schedule: A 30-second ad in "Survivor: China" is also one of the top 10 priciest, but a spot of the same length on "CSI" commands even more. NBC's Thursday-night comedies are no slouches, either: A 30-second ad on "The Office" costs $186,000.

Monday holds its own
One night to watch is Monday, where the shows aren't necessarily the priciest on the network grid, but still command solid sums. Many of them have been durable performers. NBC's returning sci-fi hit "Heroes" this year costs $296,000, compared to last year's $171,000. A 30-second spot on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" this year costs $196,000. And a 30-second spot on CBS's comedy "Two and a Half Men" costs $231,000.

Broadcast TV has long been touted as the best way for advertisers to reach as many consumers as possible in one fell swoop. For advertisers, however, this season could be one of the most difficult to gauge in recent memory. During upfront negotiations in late spring, advertisers and networks agreed on new methodology for pricing. For decades, ad prices were based on viewership of the programs. Now they are based on viewer metrics for the commercial breaks themselves and are also supposed to include TV watchers who see the ads as many as three days later through use of DVRs.

When marketers are truly able to sift through the commercial-ratings data in about a month's time, media buyers and network executives believe they will see a noticeable level of viewer drop-off -- estimated at 5% to 10% -- prompting many to wonder if the ads they purchase are worth as much as they have been in the past, particularly as TV networks also start running their programs online.
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