What it costs to advertise in TV's biggest shows in 2020-2021 season
Out of 80 returning series on broadcast TV tracked by Ad Age, 38 saw the cost for a 30-second commercial increase
By .     Illustration by Tam Nguyen    Published on October 30, 2020.

After several years of price declines for broadcast TV’s biggest shows, advertisers paid substantial increases for 30 seconds of airtime in many returning series in the 2020-2021 season, according to Ad Age’s annual survey of media agencies.

Of 80 returning series on the big four broadcast networks and The CW tracked by Ad Age, 38 saw the cost for a 30-second commercial increase and another 22 were flat compared with last year. Only 21 saw their price decrease on a year-over-year basis.

Not even the pandemic could deflate the cost to advertise in the National Football League. As the country yearned for live sports amid lockdowns, advertisers spent $783,718 for a 30-second spot in NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” on average, a 14% jump from last season. This is also a new record for the cost of the Sunday-night matchup since Ad Age began compiling the data and comes after several seasons where it seemed the franchise had hit a plateau.

The pent-up demand for live sports certainly had marketers willing to pay a pretty penny for football. Fox’s “Thursday Night Football” also saw a 16% increase, averaging $624,626 for 30 seconds of airtime, compared with $540,090 last year.

But ratings for the NFL have not been as strong as the demand would suggest as the simultaneous return of multiple sports leagues seemed to have cannibalized viewership to an extent.

Top 10 Priciest Shows on Broadcast For Advertisers
     
1
Sunday Night Football
$783,718
2
Thursday Night Football
$624,626
3
This Is Us
$476,352
4
The Voice
(Monday)
$254,224
5
The Masked Singer
$225,764
6
The Voice
(Tuesday)
$216,970
7
Grey's Anatomy
$213,829
8
The Bachelorette
$170,278
9
Young Sheldon
$157,213
10
The Bachelor
$154,886
Photo credits: Sunday Night Football: NBC; Thursday Night Football: FOX; This is Us: Ron Batzdorff/NBC; The Voice (Monday): Art Streiber/NBC; The Voice (Tuesday): Trae Patton/NBC; The Masked Singer: Michael Becker / FOX; Grey’s Anatomy: ABC/Jessica Brooks; Law & Order SVU: NBC; Survivor: CBS; The Bachelor: ABC

NBC’s “This Is Us,” which remains at No. 3 on Ad Age’s list, was the biggest gainer of the season, with the cost of a 30-second spot increasing 33% to $476,352. The tear-jerker drama returned for its 5th season last week, after the premiere was pushed back due to pandemic production delays. The show returned to 7.3 million viewers and a 1.4 rating in the 18-49 demo, nearly on par with last season’s premiere, which averaged 6.9 million viewers and a 1.5 rating.

At No. 4, the peacock’s reality singing competition, “The Voice,” also saw one of the biggest jumps in price, with the Monday-night episode rising 33% to $254,22 for a 30-second commercial. The Tuesday-night results show comes in at No. 6, also up 21% percent to $216,970 on average.

Fox’s “The Masked Singer” saw a 12% bump in its price, fetching $225,764 on average for 30 seconds of ad time, putting it at No. 6 on Ad Age’s list. While “The Masked Singer” has certainly been a hit for Fox, it returned for its fourth season last month to it’s lowest ratings to date.

In its 17th season. ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” comes in at No. 7, with advertisers paying $213,829 on average, up 15% from $186,026 last year. While that’s still nowhere close to the $400,000-plus it commanded in the 2007-08 season when it was the most expensive program on TV, the Shonda Rhimes medical drama remains a stalwart for the alphabet network.

“Grey’s Anatomy” is one of three shows ABC has in the top 10 list this year. This year marks the return of “The Bachelor” franchise to the top 10 for the first time since 2003. “The Bachelorette,” which moved to the fall season from the summer after being delayed due to lockdowns, comes in at No. 8, averaging $170,278, up 33% from last season. “The Bachelor,” which won’t air until January 2021, averaged $154.886, increasing 20%, putting it at No. 10 on the list. “The Bachelor” pricing peaked in 2003-2004 season when it commanded $255,940 for a 30-second commercial on average.

CBS has just one show in the top 10, with “Young Sheldon” coming in at No. 9, averaging $157,213, on par with last year.

This year’s biggest decliners include NBC’s “New Amsterdam,” which was bumped from the top 10 this year after tying for eighth place in the 2019-2020 season.

Other decliners include CBS’ “Blue Bloods,” which is down 13% to $72,448 and Fox’s “Bob’s Burgers,” which saw a 21% decrease to $86,896.

Notable gainers include NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU”, which climbed 38% to $149,776 and “Good Girls,” which jumped 26% to $79,033. The CW also saw nice increases for a majority of its returning programming, most of which won’t premiere until January 2021 due to the pandemic. “Nancy Drew” is up 22% to $29,116, “Batwoman” rose 27% to $47,421 and “Legacies” grew 19% to $30,273.

Ad Age's survey is assembled using information from four media-buying agencies. (See our 2019 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.

 
Hide Chart
How Much For a 30-Second TV Spot?
(2020-2021)
AllABC CBS Fox NBC The CW
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday SundayMidseason
1abc Dancing with the Stars 108Monday
8 p.m.
102,365 91,170 12%
1abc The Good Doctor 112Monday
10 p.m.
126,055 133,281 -5%
1abc The Bachelorette 208Tuesday
8 p.m.
155,071 128,390 21%
1abc Big Sky 208Tuesday
10 p.m.
89,731 -100NA -100NA
1abc The Goldbergs 308Wednesday
8 p.m.
131,817 134,284 -2%
1abc Black-ish 309Wednesday
8:30 p.m.
93,441 87,475 7%
1abc The Conners 310Wednesday
9 p.m.
136,112 135,996 0%
1abc American Housewife 311Wednesday
9:30 p.m.
85,568 74,590 15%
1abc Stumptown 312Wednesday
10 p.m.
89,121 88,692 0%
1abc Station 19 408Thursday
8 p.m.
110,588 97,449 13%
1abc Grey's Anatomy 408Thursday
9 p.m.
213,829 186,026 15%
1abc A Million Little Things 410Thursday
10 p.m.
126,783 112,465 13%
1abc Shark Tank 508Friday
8 p.m.
86,451 78,213 11%
1abc 20/20 510Friday
9 p.m.
39,899 42,624 -6%
1abc Saturday Night Football 608Saturday
8 p.m.
83,404 112,685 -26%
1abc America's Funniest Home Videos 707Sunday
7 p.m.
49,290 54,237 -9%
1abc Supermarket Sweep 708Sunday
8 p.m.
77,648 -100NA -100NA
1abc Who Wants to be a Millionaire? 708Sunday
8 p.m.
75,725 -100NA -100NA
1abc The Rookie 712Sunday
10 p.m.
67,889 67,567 0%
1abc $100,000 Pyramid midseason 57,060 -100NA -100NA
1abc American Idol midseason 118,343 121,986 -3%
1abc The Bachelor midseason 154,886 129,468 20%
1abc Call Your Mother midseason 95,135 -100NA -100NA
1abc Card Sharks midseason 69,720 -100NA -100NA
1abc For Life midseason 91,330 -100NA -100NA
1abc Mixed-ish midseason 81,948 88,480 -7%
2cbs The Neighborhood 108Monday
8 p.m.
107,785 111,203 -3%
2cbs Bob Hearts Abishola 109Monday
8:30 p.m.
90,701 92,844 -2%
2cbs All Rise 110Monday
9 p.m.
75,510 70,583 7%
2cbs Bull 112Monday
10 p.m.
92,557 89,981 3%
2cbs NCIS 208Tuesday
8 p.m.
130,260 135,858 -4%
2cbs FBI 210Tuesday
9 p.m.
97,832 97,710 0%
2cbs FBI: Most Wanted 212Tuesday
10 p.m.
81,543 82,682 -1%
2cbs The Amazing Race 312Wednesday
9 p.m.
83,645 85,838 -3%
2cbs Seal Team 310Wednesday
10 p.m.
92,705 86,043 8%
2cbs Young Sheldon 408Thursday
8 p.m.
157,213 160,698 -2%
2cbs B Positive 409Thursday
8:30 p.m.
97,717 -100NA -100NA
2cbs Mom 410Thursday
9 p.m.
125,187 124,636 0%
2cbs The Unicorn 411Thursday
9:30 p.m.
97,786 -100NA -100NA
2cbs Evil 412Thursday
10 p.m.
91,172 99,202 -8%
2cbs MacGyver 508Friday
8 p.m.
64,021 -100NA -100NA
2cbs Magnum P.I. 510Friday
9 p.m.
68,590 72,716 -6%
2cbs Blue Bloods 512Friday
10 p.m.
72,448 83,064 -13%
2cbs Crimetime Saturday 608Saturday
8 p.m.
15,061 18,064 -17%
2cbs Crimetime Saturday 610Saturday
9 p.m.
21,749 21,880 -1%
2cbs 48 Hours 612Saturday
10 p.m.
33,853 36,332 -7%
2cbs 60 Minutes 707Sunday
7 p.m.
129,733 117,822 10%
2cbs The Equalizer 708Sunday
8 p.m.
76,555 -100NA -100NA
2cbs NCIS: Los Angeles 710Sunday
9 p.m.
90,737 93,071 -3%
2cbs NCIS: New Orleans 712Sunday
10 p.m.
107,706 96,197 12%
2cbs Clarice midseason 96,097 -100NA -100NA
2cbs S.W.A.T. midseason 98,639 88,924 11%
2cbs Undercover Boss midseason 61,257 -100NA -100NA
4nbc The Voice 108Monday
8 p.m.
254,224 192,983 32%
4nbc Manifest 112Monday
10 p.m.
113,843 123,833 -8%
4nbc The Voice 208Tuesday
8 p.m.
216,970 179,951 21%
4nbc This is Us 210Tuesday
9 p.m.
476,352 359,413 33%
4nbc New Amsterdam 212Tuesday
10 p.m.
138,692 172,085 -19%
4nbc Chicago Med 308Wednesday
8 p.m.
135,242 133,216 2%
4nbc Chicago Fire 310Wednesday
9 p.m.
133,567 140,834 -5%
4nbc Chicago P.D. 312Wednesday
10 p.m.
131,011 143,082 -8%
4nbc Superstore 408Thursday
8 p.m.
111,281 103,159 8%
4nbc Brooklyn Nine-Nine 409Thursday
8:30 p.m.
104,126 82,140 27%
4nbc Law & Order: SVU 412Thursday
9 p.m.
149,776 108,236 38%
4nbc Law & Order: Organized Crime 410Thursday
10 p.m.
109,352 -100NA -100NA
4nbc The Blacklist 508Friday
8 p.m.
86,530 78,363 10%
4nbc Dateline 510Friday
9 p.m.
56,434 46,144 22%
4nbc Dateline Saturday Night Mystery 608Saturday
8 p.m.
33,516 39,259 -15%
4nbc Saturday Night Live (encores) 612Saturday
10 p.m.
31,000 31,910 -3%
4nbc Football Night in America 707Sunday
7 p.m.
85,546 90,907 -6%
4nbc Sunday Night Football 708Sunday
8:20 p.m.
783,718 685,227 14%
4nbc Mr. Mayor midseason 110,561 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Kenan midseason 90,553 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Young Rock midseason 99,993 -100NA -100NA
4nbc Good Girls midseason 79,033 62,652 26%
4nbc Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist midseason 66,586 65,914 1%
4nbc Ellen's Game of Games midseason 83,156 91,930 -10%
3fox L.A.'s Finest 108Monday
8 p.m.
71,289 -100NA -100NA
3fox Filthy Rich 110Monday
9 p.m.
70,506 72,407 -3%
3fox Cosmos: Possible Worlds 208Tuesday
8 p.m.
82,312 -100NA -100NA
3fox Next 210Tuesday
9 p.m.
89,486 84,790 6%
3fox The Masked Singer 308Wednesday
8 p.m.
225,764 201,683 12%
3fox MasterChef Junior 310Wednesday
9 p.m.
80,587 72,253 12%
3fox Thursday Night Football 408Thursday
8 p.m.
624,626 540,090 16%
3fox WWE's Smackdown Live 508Friday
8 p.m.
57,293 56,636 1%
3fox Fox Sports Saturday 608Saturday
8 p.m.
77,930 71,798 9%
3fox The Simpsons 708Sunday
8 p.m.
125,971 133,268 -5%
3fox Bless the Harts 709Sunday
8:30 p.m.
101,436 102,595 -1%
3fox Bob's Burgers 710Sunday
9 p.m.
86,896 110,533 -21%
3fox Family Guy 711Sunday
9:30 p.m.
114,347 109,015 5%
3fox Duncanville midseason 63,262 -100NA -100NA
3fox Call Me Kat midseason 58,242 -100NA -100NA
3fox The Great North midseason 78,391 -100NA -100NA
3fox Hell's Kitchen midseason 64,954 78,459 -17%
3fox Hell's Kitchen midseason 78,459 79,082 -1%
5cw Whose Line Is It Anyway? 108Monday
8 p.m.
20,659 -100NA -100NA
5cw All American 108Monday
8 p.m. (January)
29,571 25,492 16%
5cw Whose Line Is It Anyway? 110Monday
8:30 p.m.
20,159 -100NA -100NA
5cw Black Lightning 108Monday
9 p.m. (January)
29,563 30,176 -2%
5cw Penn & Teller: Fool Us 110Monday
9 p.m.
16,391 -100NA -100NA
5cw The Flash 208Tuesday
8 p.m. (January)
49,113 44,431 11%
5cw Two Sentence Horror Stories 308Wednesday
8 p.m.
10,461 -100NA -100NA
5cw Riverdale 310Wednesday
9 p.m. (January)
37,375 32,859 14%
5cw Nancy Drew 310Wednesday
9 p.m. (January)
29,116 23,816 22%
5cw Supernatural 408Thursday
8 p.m.
29,028 27,497 6%
5cw Legacies 410Thursday
9 p.m. (January)
30,273 25,432 19%
5cw World's Funniest Animals 508Friday
8 p.m.
15,718 -100NA -100NA
5cw Penn & Teller: Fool Us 510Friday
9 p.m.
13,891 -100NA -100NA
5cw Whose Line Is It Anyway? 510Friday
9 p.m. (January)
21,159 -100NA -100NA
5cw Masters of Illusion 708Sunday
8 p.m.
21,864 -100NA -100NA
5cw Batwoman 708Sunday
8 p.m. (January)
43,160 37,397 15%
5cw Pandora 710Sunday
9 p.m.
17,976 -100NA -100NA
5cw Charmed 710Sunday
9 p.m. (January)
28,010 24,292 15%
HOW WE GENERATE THE DATA: Ad Age's survey is compiled using data from four media 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.
 
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