Last week, Ad Age magazine unleashed its annual survey of how much a 30-second commercial costs on every show on network television. As you would assume, with live viewing decreasing every year, and the power of the networks eroding on the whole, Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi found that many shows took hits compared to last year's survey. Some shockingly so.
But there are exceptions! The phenomenon that is CBS's The Big Bang Theory shot to the top of scripted shows. And advertisers seem to believe in this year's American Idol judging panel more than they did in last year's. Shows such as ABC's Scandal and NBC's The Voice also got their just rewards, particularly since they both attract real-time audiences.
I've ranked the shows below according to Ad Age data from most expensive to least. Along with last year's Ad Age numbers for each show, I've also included the season-to-date Live+Same Day ratings for the first four weeks of the season so we can look at whether the advertisers made good bets. The networks are encouraging the press to use Nielsen's more cumulative measurements, such as Live+3 or Live+7 numbers. For journalists who write for consumers, it's absolutely worth looking at how many people really watch a show, whether on television, VOD, or streaming. But Nielsen doesn't offer those. And once you really try to figure out a true audience, why just three days? Or seven days? Why not 30? Or 365? Many of us have probably saved up shows on our DVRs and then watched them all at once.
And when we did, we probably did not watch the commercials. Which is why I chose to use the Live+Same Day ratings here. Three more housekeeping things: 1) I didn't include shows that have already been canceled — We Are Men, Ironside, and a few more — because... well, they have no ads anymore for you to wonder about! But I'll put those numbers at the very bottom. 2) In evaluating how shows are doing, ratings-wise, their performances depend on what network they're on and what night they're on. A strong show on Fridays will likely pale in comparison to hits on other nights of the week; and what's considered a success for NBC is very different from one on CBS. Finally, 3) Ad Age has a complicated methodology for how it gathered its information, and I will append that to the bottom as well.
Without further ado, here is the ranked list. Only live-readers in the 18–49 demographic are allowed, though.