Thanks to 'Idol,' Fox Ranks as the Priciest Network

Sunday Night Shows Are Also Going to Cost You

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NEW YORK ( -- Fox is officially the most expensive network for advertisers trying to reach 18- to 49-year-olds. Its midseason singing contest "American Idol" has sold its 30-second spots for an average of $620,000 for the Wednesday-night show. The show has been the top earner on TV for three years running, having replaced NBC's longtime No. 1 "Friends" back in 2004.
With three nights of 'Idol' starting in January, Fox will have the most expensive show on TV.
See all the prices for the broadcast TV schedule. Full chart here.
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Wednesday night's show is more expensive than Tuesday's performance show, which is fetching $594,000. But Fox will manage to get even more money out of "Idol" this season because it's added a handful of Thursday-night shows when it returns in January. Last season, the Wednesday show also commanded the higher price, at $518,000, while the Tuesday show fetched $497,000. Media agencies reported that "Idol" spots this season have sold for $550,000 to $700,000. The range reflects several factors, such as the quarter that marketers have bought -- those nearer to the finale are more expensive -- as well as overall commitments to Fox.

Advertising Age's pricing chart for this season was compiled using prices paid by six media-buying agencies.

Sunday's the new Thursday
But the most interesting wrinkle this year is Sunday night, with numerous shows commanding the kind of ad dollars that previously were only seen on Thursdays.

ABC's "Desperate Housewives" is the third-most-expensive show, with a $394,000 average. (That's down from last year's $439,500.)

Despite the decline, it still has enough power to give a boost to the Calista Flockhart/Sally Field newcomer "Brothers & Sisters" that follows. That boasts a sizable $242,000 price tag per 30-second spot. NBC's "Sunday Night Football" is pulling $342,000 for a spot, compared with the $326,000 ABC charged for "Monday Night Football" last year.

Thursday is where the real battle lines are drawn, however, with CBS taking the biggest chunk of ad dollars thanks to its stalwart performer "CSI," the fourth-most-expensive show at $347,000. Its lead-in, the color-coded and controversial "Survivor: Cook Islands," weighs in at $296,000, despite numerous advertisers pulling out this season.

ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" grabs the No. 5 spot at $344,000. Its lead-in, "Ugly Betty," should prove to be the bargain of the season. ABC switched the buzzed-about show from Friday night to a top Thursday night perch, which explains its $93,000 price tag.

NBC's brightest hope, Monday's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," is pulling in a more-than-respectable $210,000 for a 30-second spot.

Marked down
On the other end of the spectrum are shows that are clearly past their heyday. NBC's "ER" has fallen to $282,000, down from $405,000 back in 2003, when it was the third-most-expensive show on the grid. NBC's Donald Trump vehicle, "The Apprentice," is returning midseason. Last fall it was almost $300,000 a spot, but this year it appears to come in at half that.

Last year's most buzzed-about show, "Everybody Hates Chris," has fallen to earth. On the now-defunct UPN, "Chris" was pulling $140,000 a spot on Thursdays. Now on new network the CW's Sunday night, "Chris" is a more reasonable $82,000. The network's most expensive show is "America's Next Top Model" at $135,000, a significant jump from last year's UPN price tag of $62,319. On Tuesday, "Gilmore Girls" is bringing in $93,000, below last year's $112,900.

Rock-bottom prices
News Corp. may have the most expensive show on broadcast TV, thanks to Fox's "American Idol," but its new entry, My Network TV, is selling at rock-bottom prices. The joint venture of Fox Station Group and Twentieth Television is airing two English-language "telenovela" programs, "Desire" and "Fashion House," from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Each serial presents a 13-week story arc with a new story starting every three months. Thirty-second spots for "Desire: Table for Two" and "Fashion House" are selling in the range of $20,000 to $30,000.

The racy soaps have so far drawn audiences in sizes more akin to a cable network. "Desire" on its first night earned a 1.1 household rating, while "Fashion House" was only slightly better, with a 1.3 household rating. The second night both posted household ratings of 1.12.
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