Although the strike ended before the second quarter, new episodes of network dramas and comedies didn't start to air until late March and April. "And when new episodes aired, they didn't perform up to pre-strike levels," said Gary Carr, senior VP-director of broadcast services at TargetCast. "Viewers had found other options and didn't rush back to the networks."
Additionally, networks issued more make-goods than in the same period last year, TargetCast said, roughly 20% of inventory, compared with 13% in the second quarter of 2007. Those make-goods, or ad time given to advertisers when networks fall short on ratings guarantees, put more downward pressure on unit prices, Mr. Carr said.
What a spot cost
The analysis shows that network TV pricing continues to suffer. The average cost for a prime-time spot on network TV in the first quarter dropped 12%, to $125,634, according to a previous TargetCast analysis. The shop said ABC, CBS and Fox saw the average cost of a commercial unit fall between 9% and 12% in the period, while NBC's average unit cost tumbled nearly 25%.
In the second quarter, the average unit cost fell 15.1% on NBC and 18% on CBS, while ABC's average unit cost fell 5.1% and Fox's slipped 2.7%. Fox enjoyed the highest average unit cost, $254,852, TargetCast said. NBC's was the lowest among the four big broadcast networks, at $103,693. CBS's was $118,294, and ABC's was $142,194.
TargetCast said ratings for adults between the ages of 25 and 54 were down 11% in the second quarter compared with the same period last year.
The analysis uses syndicated research and tracking data from NetCosts System, a service of Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Sqad. The service compiles confidential data from agencies and in-house buying systems to help advertisers understand the unit price relationship with each network and to measure future costs.