TV's most expensive
commercials for the
2019-'20 season
NFL and singing competitions dominate the top 10
By .     Illustration by Tam Nguyen    Published on October 7, 2019.

The cost to advertise in the NFL hasn’t deflated yet. In a season where the price of a 30-second commercial in a majority of broadcast TV’s premiere shows is on a decline, football remains an anomaly.

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” once again came in at No. 1 on Ad Age’s annual pricing survey of media agencies, while Fox’s “Thursday Night Football” holds at No. 2.

Advertisers paid $685,227 on average for a 30-second commercial in Sunday night’s weekly matchup, flat compared with last year. While the price for “Sunday Night Football” hasn’t meaningfully increased in the last two seasons, it also hasn’t seen the same erosion as broadcast’s entertainment programming.

And “Thursday Night Football” was one of the biggest price gainers of the season, with a 30-second spot costing $540,090 on average, up 24 percent from $434,078 last year.

Top 10 Priciest Shows on Broadcast For Advertisers
Sunday Night Football
Thursday Night Football
This Is Us
The Masked Singer
The Voice
Grey's Anatomy
The Voice
New Amsterdam
Photo credits: Sunday Night Football: NBC; Thursday Night Football: FOX; This is Us: Ron Batzdorff/NBC; The Masked Singer: Michael Becker / FOX; The Voice (Monday): Art Streiber/NBC; Grey’s Anatomy: ABC/Jessica Brooks; The Voice (Tuesday): Trae Patton/NBC; 9-1-1: Aaron Epstein/FOX; New Amsterdam: Virginia Sherwood/NBC; Empire: Chuck Hodes/FOX

It’s no surprise advertisers continue to open their wallets for the NFL. Through the first four weeks of the 2019 season deliveries for all six of the NFL TV windows are up 3 percent year-over-year to 16.2 million viewers and a 9.4 household rating. The biggest gainer thus far is "Sunday Night Football," up 6 percent to 20.9 million viewers and a 12.1 rating, compared with 19.8 million viewers and an 11.5 rating last season. Fox has aired only one "Thursday Night Football" game exclusively this season as of press time, but that Eagles-Packers matchup averaged 17.6 million viewers and a 10.5 rating, up 22 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

It's also worth noting that Fox's nationally televised evening NFL games, which are not technically in primetime, cost about $689,988 for 30-seconds of commercial time, flat with last season.

Scripted slips

Of 81 returning series on the big four broadcast networks and The CW, 49 saw the cost for a 30-second commercial decrease in the 2019-2020 season. Only 12 returning shows commanded a higher price point, and 20 were flat compared with last year.

Among the biggest decliners is NBC’s tear-jerker "This Is Us.” The drama took a 17 percent hit this season, averaging $359,413 for a 30-second spot, compared with $433,866 last year. But the series is still TV’s most expensive scripted program, remaining steady at No. 3 on the list.

Another notable decliner is Fox’s hip-hop drama “Empire.” In its final season, “Empire” comes in at No. 10, down five spots from last year. Advertisers paid $171,187 on average for a 30-second commercial in the series, a 21 percent decline from $216,171 in the year prior. Once a ratings boon for the network, “Empire” has petered out in recent years. It returned last month to a series low, pulling 3.4 million total viewers and 1.0 rating in live-plus-same day viewing.

But Fox boasts four of the top 10 costliest TV shows. This includes “The Masked Singer,” which debuts on the chart at No. 4, averaging $201,683 for a 30-second spot. The singing competition series, which pits undisclosed celebrities dressed in costumes against each other, was a surprise hit for Fox last season. While "The Masked Singer” returned for its second season to 8 million viewers in live-plus-same day viewing, this was down from the 10.3 million people that watched the premiere last season.

'The Masked Singer' sings for Fox.    Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

The Ryan Murphy drama "9-1-1” is also a new addition to the list, tied at No. 7. Advertisers paid $172,215 for a 30-second spot in the series, flat with last season.  

But it’s NBC that commands the biggest share, with half of the top 10 costliest shows on TV. “New Amsterdam” debuts on the list at No. 9. The medical drama saw a 33 percent surge for a 30-second spot in its sophomore season, costing advertisers $172,085, compared with $129,736 last year.

And “The Voice” takes the No. 5 and ties for the No. 7 spots for its performance and results shows, respectively. The Monday night performance episodes cost advertisers $192,983 on average, down 9 percent from last year, while the Tuesday night results shows cost $179,951, a 7 percent drop.

Gone missing

In its 16th season, ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” comes in at No. 6, up from No. 8 last year, with advertisers paying $186,026 on average. While that’s still a 9 percent dip from the $204,792 it cost for a 30-second commercial in “Grey’s” last season, the Shonda Rhimes medical drama is a stalwart performer for the alphabet network.  

It’s the only series ABC has in the top 10 this year, with “The Conners” being bumped from the list after debuting on the chart last year at No. 9. The spin-off of the “Roseanne” reboot cost advertisers $135,996, plunging 32 percent from last year.

Also noticeably missing from the top 10 is ABC’s comedy “Modern Family.” In its final season, “Modern Family,” which was once one of the most expensive series for advertisers on TV, cost $148,228, down 10 percent from last year. It’s a far cry from the $330,908 the series garnered for a 30-second spot at its peak in 2012, when it came in at No. 3 on Ad Age’s list.   

ABC’s comedies saw some of the biggest price hits this season: “American Housewife” declined 39 percent to $74,590; “Black-ish” cost $87,475, down 26 percent, and “Single Parents” was cut by 25 percent to $90,315.

The price for a commercial in ABC's 'American Housewife' took a big hit.    Credit: Michael Ansell/ABC

And “American Idol,” which ABC heavily invested in reviving in 2018, cost advertisers $121,986 on average, down 21 percent from $154,096 last season.

With CBS saying goodbye to “The Big Bang Theory” last season, the eye network doesn’t have any shows that crack the top 10. The ‘Big Bang” spin-off, “Young Sheldon,” was bumped from this year’s top 10 after coming in at No. 6 last year. Advertisers paid $160,698 for a 30-second spot, down 25 percent from $213,536 last season.

CBS’ Sunday night drama, “Madam Secretary,” which will end after this season, was also one of this year’s biggest decliners, costing $67,231 down 34 percent from $101,499 last year.

Ad Age's survey is assembled using information from as many as six media-buying agencies. (See our 2018 pricing chart here.) The resulting prices should be viewed as directional indicators of unit cost and not the actual price that every advertiser paid for a 30-second spot. The numbers are based on agency estimates that can vary depending on the amount of inventory purchased from a network, the inclusion of any nontraditional advertising such as product placements, and the relationship that an advertiser and media-buying agency has with a network. Most TV advertising is typically purchased as part of larger negotiations, not on a one-off basis.

These estimates also reflect the prices that advertisers and networks agreed on in this year's upfront marketplace. Prices have likely changed for those buying spots closer to the air date in the so-called "scatter" market that follows.

Contributing: Anthony Crupi

Hide Chart
How Much For a 30-Second TV Spot?
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday SundayMidseason
1abc Dancing with the Stars 108Monday
8 p.m.
91,170 113,977 -20%
1abc The Good Doctor 112Monday
10 p.m.
133,281 155,916 -15%
1abc The Conners 208Tuesday
8 p.m.
135,996 201,065 -32%
1abc Bless This Mess 209Tuesday
8:30 p.m.
89,343 -100NA -100NA
1abc mixed-ish 210Tuesday
9 p.m.
88,480 -100NA -100NA
1abc black-ish 211Tuesday
9:30 p.m.
87,475 117,766 -26%
1abc Emergence 212Tuesday
10 p.m.
79,302 -100NA -100NA
1abc The Goldbergs 308Wednesday
8 p.m.
134,284 135,124 -1%
1abc Schooled 309Wednesday
8:30 p.m.
98,874 -100NA -100NA
1abc Modern Family 310Wednesday
9 p.m.
148,228 164,767 -10%
1abc Single Parents 311Wednesday
9:30 p.m.
90,315 120,666 -25%
1abc Stumptown 312Wednesday
10 p.m.
88,692 -100NA -100NA
1abc Grey's Anatomy 408Thursday
8 p.m.
186,026 204,792 -9%
1abc A Million Little Things 410Thursday
9 p.m.
112,465 142,635 -21%
1abc How to Get Away with Murder 412Thursday
10 p.m.
99,922 126,951 -21%
1abc American Housewife 508Friday
8 p.m.
74,590 122,193 -39%
1abc Fresh Off the Boat 509Friday
8:30 p.m.
71,616 78,862 -9%
1abc 20/20 510Friday
9 p.m.
42,624 44,410 -4%
1abc Saturday Night Football 608Saturday
8 p.m.
112,685 92,936 21%
1abc America's Funniest Home Videos 707Sunday
7 p.m.
54,237 56,270 -4%
1abc Kids Say the Darndest Things 708Sunday
8 p.m.
69,944 -100NA -100NA
1abc Shark Tank 710Sunday
9 p.m.
78,213 80,245 -3%
1abc The Rookie 712Sunday
10 p.m.
67,567 87,580 -23%
1abc Station 19 midseason 97,449 120,301 -19%
1abc American Idol midseason 121,986 154,096 -21%
1abc The Bachelor midseason 129,468 139,797 -7%
1abc The Bachelorette midseason 128,390 153,096 -16%
5cw All American 108Monday
8 p.m.
25,492 30,846 -17%
5cw Black Lightning 110Monday
9 p.m.
30,176 34,802 -13%
5cw The Flash 208Tuesday
8 p.m.
44,431 45,965 -3%
5cw Arrow 210Tuesday
9 p.m.
26,582 25,637 4%
5cw Riverdale 308Wednesday
8 p.m.
32,859 29,662 11%
5cw Nancy Drew 310Wednesday
9 p.m.
23,816 -100NA -100NA
5cw Supernatural 408Thursday
8 p.m.
27,497 29,409 -7%
5cw Legacies 410Thursday
9 p.m.
25,432 27,154 -6%
5cw Charmed 508Friday
8 p.m.
24,292 24,732 -2%
5cw Dynasty 510Friday
9 p.m.
21,326 17,859 19%
5cw Batwoman 708Sunday
8 p.m.
37,397 -100NA -100NA
5cw Supergirl 710Sunday
9 p.m.
27,381 31,541 -13%
5cw DC's Legends of Tomorrow midseason 24,609 28,803 -15%
2cbs The Neighborhood 108Monday
8 p.m.
111,203 84,417 32%
2cbs Bob Hearts Abishola 109Monday
8:30 p.m.
92,844 -100NA -100NA
2cbs All Rise 110Monday
9 p.m.
70,583 -100NA -100NA
2cbs Bull 112Monday
10 p.m.
89,981 102,620 -12%
2cbs NCIS 208Tuesday
8 p.m.
135,858 135,960 0%
2cbs FBI 210Tuesday
9 p.m.
97,710 109,836 -11%
2cbs NCIS: New Orleans 212Tuesday
10 p.m.
96,197 100,609 -4%
2cbs Survivor 308Wednesday
8 p.m.
132,801 137,547 -3%
2cbs Seal Team 310Wednesday
9 p.m.
86,043 104,267 -17%
2cbs S.W.A.T. 312Wednesday
10 p.m.
88,924 105,103 -15%
2cbs Young Sheldon 408Thursday
8 p.m.
160,698 213,536 -25%
2cbs The Unicorn 409Thursday
8:30 p.m.
134,107 -100NA -100NA
2cbs Mom 410Thursday
9 p.m.
124,636 126,395 -1%
2cbs Carol's Second Act 411Thursday
9:30 p.m.
107,161 -100NA -100NA
2cbs Evil 412Thursday
10 p.m.
99,202 -100NA -100NA
2cbs Hawaii Five-0 508Friday
8 p.m.
80,965 87,701 -8%
2cbs Magnum P.I. 510Friday
9 p.m.
72,716 -100NA -100NA
2cbs Blue Bloods 512Friday
10 p.m.
83,064 85,069 -2%
2cbs Crimetime Saturday 608Saturday
8 p.m.
18,064 26,640 -32%
2cbs Crimetime Saturday 610Saturday
9 p.m.
21,880 29,141 -25%
2cbs 48 Hours 612Saturday
10 p.m.
36,332 48,060 -24%
2cbs 60 Minutes 707Sunday
7 p.m.
117,822 -100NA -100NA
2cbs God Friended Me 708Sunday
8 p.m.
85,306 105,743 -19%
2cbs NCIS: Los Angeles 710Sunday
9 p.m.
93,071 86,113 8%
2cbs Madam Secretary 712Sunday
10 p.m.
67,231 101,449 -34%
2cbs FBI: Most Wanted midseason 82,682 -100NA -100NA
2cbs Criminal Minds midseason 91,434 -100NA -100NA
2cbs The Amazing Race midseason 85,838 117,871 -27%
3fox 9-1-1 108Monday
8 p.m.
172,215 173,854 -1%
3fox Prodigal Son 110Monday
9 p.m.
101,915 -100NA -100NA
3fox The Resident 208Tuesday
8 p.m.
116,988 108,593 8%
3fox Empire 210Tuesday
9 p.m.
171,187 216,171 -21%
3fox The Masked Singer 308Wednesday
8 p.m.
201,683 -100NA -100NA
3fox Almost Family 310Wednesday
9 p.m.
123,144 -100NA -100NA
3fox Thursday Night Football 408Thursday
8 p.m.
540,090 434,078 24%
3fox WWE's Smackdown Live 508Friday
8 p.m.
56,636 -100NA -100NA
3fox Fox Sports Saturday: College Football 608Saturday
8 p.m.
71,798 67,277 7%
3fox NFL Game 707Sunday
4:25 p.m.
689,988 687,921 0%
3fox The Simpsons 708Sunday
8 p.m.
133,268 162,725 -18%
3fox Bless the Harts 709Sunday
8:30 p.m.
102,595 -100NA -100NA
3fox Bob's Burgers 710Sunday
9 p.m.
110,533 99,184 11%
3fox Family Guy 711Sunday
9:30 p.m.
109,015 120,103 -9%
3fox Last Man Standing midseason 87,092 85,574 2%
3fox Lone Star midseason 127,560 -100NA -100NA
3fox Deputy midseason 80,273 -100NA -100NA
3fox Filthy Rich midseason 72,407 -100NA -100NA
3fox neXt midseason 84,790 -100NA -100NA
3fox Outmatched midseason 55,569 -100NA -100NA
3fox Duncanville midseason 67,183 -100NA -100NA
3fox Hell's Kitchen midseason 78,459 79,082 -1%
3fox Masterchef midseason 93,108 -100NA -100NA
3fox Masterchef Junior midseason 72,253 -100NA -100NA
3fox So You Think You Can Dance midseason 62,778 -100NA -100NA
3fox Spin the Wheel midseason 62,908 -100NA -100NA
4nbc The Voice 108Monday
8 p.m.
192,983 212,618 -9%
4nbc Bluff City Law 112Monday
10 p.m.
132,288 -100NA -100NA
4nbc The Voice 208Tuesday
8 p.m.
179,951 193,140 -7%
4nbc This is Us 210Tuesday
9 p.m.
359,413 433,866 -17%
4nbc New Amsterdam 212Tuesday
10 p.m.
172,085 129,736 33%
4nbc Chicago Med 308Wednesday
8 p.m.
133,216 161,561 -18%
4nbc Chicago Fire 310Wednesday
9 p.m.
140,834 147,689 -5%
4nbc Chicago P.D. 312Wednesday
10 p.m.
143,082 130,206 10%
4nbc Superstore 408Thursday
8 p.m.
103,159 106,487 -3%
4nbc Perfect Harmony 409Thursday
8:30 p.m.
107,567 -100NA -100NA
4nbc The Good Place 410Thursday
9 p.m.
127,951 125,498 2%
4nbc Sunnyside 411Thursday
9:30 p.m.
79,841 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Law & Order: SVU 412Thursday
10 p.m.
108,236 105,030 3%
4nbc The Blacklist 508Friday
8 p.m.
78,363 87,287 -10%
4nbc Dateline 510Friday
9 p.m.
46,144 49,378 -7%
4nbc Dateline Saturday Night Mystery 608Saturday
8 p.m.
39,259 36,532 7%
4nbc Saturday Night Live (encores) 612Saturday
10 p.m.
31,910 54,505 -41%
4nbc Football Night in America 707Sunday
8 p.m.
90,907 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Sunday Night Football 708Sunday
8 p.m.
685,227 665,677 3%
4nbc Council of Dads midseason 83,733 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Brooklyn Nine-Nine midseason 82,140 91,029 -10%
4nbc Lincoln midseason 61,722 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist midseason 65,914 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Indebted midseason 83,440 -100NA -100NA
4nbc America's Got Talent: The Champions midseason 130,165 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Ellen's Game of Games midseason 91,930 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Little Big Shots midseason 57,880 -100NA -100NA
4nbc World of Dance midseason 94,619 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Will & Grace midseason 113,181 161,373 -30%
4nbc Manifest midseason 123,833 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Good Girls midseason 62,652 99,669 -37%
4nbc Blindspot midseason 54,342 67,477 -19%
HOW WE GENERATE THE DATA: Ad Age's survey is compiled using data from as many as eight agencies. The resulting prices should be viewed as directional indicators and are not the actual price that every advertiser pays for a 30-second spot. The numbers are based on a range of agency estimates that can vary depending on the amount of inventory purchased from a network, the inclusion of any nontraditional advertising such as product placements, and the relationship an advertiser and media-buying agency has with a network. Most TV advertising is typically purchased as part of larger negotiations, not on a one-off basis. These estimates also reflect the prices advertisers and networks agreed on in this year's upfront marketplace. Prices have likely changed for those wishing to buy a spot closer to the air date in the so-called "scatter" market.
Web production by Corey Holmes and Tam Nguyen