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A Conventional Sitcom Keeps Growing on Advertisers

By Published on .

'The Goldbergs.'
'The Goldbergs.' Credit: ABC

Everybody talks about the high-concept, high-budget shows proliferating in the era of so-called peak TV, but sometimes the ones marketers like best are a little more grounded.

The broadcast show that has raised its ad prices the most over the past three seasons, for example, is not an emotional ensemble drama or an expensive thriller but "The Goldbergs," ABC's sitcom about the 1980s.

Ad buyers in this year's upfront talks agreed to pay 45% more for "The Goldbergs" this season, an average of $160,193 for 30 seconds, than they did three years prior.

The show is ABC's second-highest rated comedy in adults 18 to 49, behind only "Modern Family," and was moved to Wednesday nights last season to anchor the network's comedy block.

The biggest gainer between last season and this season, for the record, was indeed an emotional ensemble drama, NBC's "This Is Us," where average prices rose 45% to $394,428.

But if our annual report on TV ad prices reveals one thing, it's that a hot commodity one season can quickly lose traction with buyers.

In just three years, for example, NBC's "The Blacklist" has seen its price tag cut in more than half. This season the drama starring James Spader averaged $114,957, down 59% from the 2014-2015 season. Three years ago, "The Blacklist" was the fourth most expensive broadcast TV show for advertisers. This season it's not in the top 50.

While "The Blacklist" was a runaway hit when it debuted in fall 2013, it moved to Thursdays midway through its sophomore season and its ratings took a hit. NBC later tried to grow the franchise with the spin-off "The Blacklist: Redemption," but that didn't make it past its first season.

The show could be due for a revival, however: "The Blacklist" switched to Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. this season and attracted 6.4 million viewers and a 1.1 rating in the 18-to-49 demographic in its debut. It was the drama's largest audience in a year.

And never count out a veteran.

"Grey's Anatomy" is among the top 10 most expensive broadcast shows for advertisers for its second consecutive year. The Shonda Rhimes medical drama cost advertisers $213,576 on average, up 43% from three years ago. And it just entered its 14th season.

Last year the "Thank God It's Thursday" anchor returned to the top 10 for the first time since 2010. Still, "Grey's" is nowhere close to the $400,000-plus that it commanded from advertisers in the 2007-08 season, when it was the most expensive program on TV.

Aside from "The Blacklist," other notable declines over the past three years belong to shows including Fox's "Gotham," whose commercial cost plunged 51% from the 2014-15 season to $88,796. ABC's "Once Upon A Time" tanked 41% to $81,105. This year the fantasy drama moved from Sundays to an out-of-the-way timeslot on Fridays, where shows often go to die. The Alphabet Network also moved "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." to Fridays from Tuesdays. Its price has collapsed 40% from three years ago to an average of $94,921.

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