MTV Scores Peak Pricing for Breakout Hit Series

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NEW YORK ( -- Already a cultural and ratings success, The Osbournes is now a smash hit for MTV's advertising department.

The Viacom network show has broached a $100,000 mark for a 30-second spot -- a pricing record for a regular non-sports cable series, according to media executives. The previous title was claimed by Comedy Central's South Park, which approached the $80,000 to $90,000 level in the late 1990s, according to media executives.

ESPN's Sunday Night Football has been regularly inking deals in the $125,000 to $135,000 unit price range. But beyond sports, no regular cable series price had reached $100,000 until Ozzy Osbourne and his family hit prime time.

Racing to buy time
The Osbournes didn't start out with a big payday. Before the show launched, lucky advertisers secured ad time for $10,000 to $15,000 per 30-second commercial. When ratings began to climb, advertisers raced to buy time and pricing shot up.

For the week ending May 5, The Osbournes season finale was the highest-rated cable series of the week, posting a Nielsen Media Research 3.8 rating, and reaching 4.1 million households.

MTV executives,

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currently in negotiations to renew the Osbourne clan for a new season, would not comment for this story. But it's estimated that, at an average of $40,000 per 30-second spot, MTV could have nabbed $9.6 million in advertising sales for the series that aired at 10:30 p.m. ET.

The family was paid about $200,000 for the entire 10-episode run, according to executives familiar with the situation. Now, the Osbournes want to cash in. Spearheaded by Ozzy's wife and manager, Sharon, and their Hollywood talent agency, Endeavor, the Osbournes are angling for a two-year deal that could pay them $20 million.

Cable TV's edginess
With The Osbournes, MTV has capitalized on viewers' increasing acceptance of cable TV's edginess -- as FX's rough cop show The Shield has also proved. Some years back, Comedy Central's rough language on South Park propelled that show to high ratings and high commercial costs.

The Osbournes is a no-holds-barred look at the real life of aging rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his family as they go about their daily routine. Mr. Osbourne's life takes many comical turns as the bumbling rocker tackles mundane chores such as taking out the garbage.

"There are all these reality programs that allow the average Joe to have their 15 minutes of fame," said Stacey Lynn Koerner, senior vice president of programming analysis for Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative Media North America, New York. "With The Osbournes we have someone with fame looking like the average Joe."

MTV breakthrough
This is a breakthrough show for MTV on many levels, now reaching a broad spectrum of demographics rather than just its core 12 to 34 viewers.

Because of the racy content, not all advertisers are buying shows like The Osbournes or The Shield.

"People who are reluctant to advertise on The Osbournes are already reluctant to buy MTV. They are not losing much," said Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of broadcast research for independent Horizon Media, New York.

Next year, MTV is looking for the show to be shot in England, as well as adding the another Osbourne daughter that didn't care to be in the first series.

"Ozzy will continue to curse and yell 'Sharon!'" said Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming for Katz Television Group, the New York-based sales rep company. "It's a simple formula."

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