`Seinfeld' shocker: $2 million price tag

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NBC is asking an eye-popping $2 million for a 30-second commercial during the final episode of "Seinfeld"--by far the highest price tag in TV history.

Although NBC had been expected to seek a premium rate for the last episode of the pop culture megahit, the actual price significantly exceeds marketplace speculation the network might charge up to $1.5 million per spot. It also eclipses the current record rate for a TV commercial, the $1.3 million NBC got for 30 seconds during this year's Super Bowl.

"You have a Super Bowl every year," said one NBC executive. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reach the most coveted audience in television."

With 10 minutes of national commercial time available during the hourlong May 14 episode, NBC stands to rake in as much as $40 million from the finale. That would provide some consolation as the network bids farewell to a show that has delivered $200 million in annual ad revenue and was already the highest-priced on TV.


NBC just started floating the $2 million figure among buyers last week, and thus far has no takers. If NBC is overestimating demand, the price could drop during negotiations.

The network is targeting movie studios in the first round, a category accustomed to paying a premium for ad time to reach viewers on Thursday nights as they make weekend entertainment decisions.

NBC declined comment for this story.


Already, the network has sold some spots at a premium price in the show that follows the sitcom that night, the season finale of "ER."

"NBC is asking in the $800,000 range for a :30 on `ER,' and I know for a fact that they have sold some of those spots," said one executive familiar with the situation. The medical drama typically sells a 30-second spot for $560,000, according to Advertising Age data.

Based on a Nielsen rating in the 38 to 46 range for adults age 18 to 49, the cost-per-thousand at a rate of $2 million is about $40, said one buyer. "That's comparable to what you'd have to pay, top dollar, for `Seinfeld' during the regular season," the buyer said, adding "you'll probably get more women than you get in the Super Bowl."

However, another buyer noted that on a CPM basis, last year's "Seinfeld" season finale cost about $30 for adults 18-to-49.


NBC also is raising prices for local spots during the "Seinfeld" finale on its owned-and-operated TV stations. The strategy there is to package the show with other availabilities.

For example, WNBC in New York and KNBC in Los Angeles are looking for packages in the $1.5 million to $2 million range. In addition to a spot on "Seinfeld"--priced at a costly $450,000 to $500,000 on a standalone basis--marketers would get spots in other programming, including local news and "ER." Also, advertisers that take the package are being asked to commit 50% of their local budget in the second quarter to the stations.

NBC has said it will air a "making of `Seinfeld' " episode, or a show featuring clips from past episodes, in the hour preceding the series finale. Agency buyers said NBC has not yet released pricing for that show.

Copyright February 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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