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Advertisers Paying Less As Leading Shows’ Ratings Fall

The networks are paying more to keep their shows on the air, but advertisers aren’t following along with increases in commercial rates, according to a report in Daily Variety.

The trade paper surveyed ad buyers and sellers and found that some of the top shows are garnering lower advertising rates than a year ago.

The reason for the decline is simple. Most of the top-rated shows generated lower ratings last year than the year before. And since ad rates for the new season are based on last season’s performance, commercial-time buyers are paying less.

Advertisers paid $525,000 for a 30-second spot to air on NBC’s “Seinfeld” this season, down from $550,000 last season. The cost of a 30-second spot on the same network’s “Friends” fell to $350,000 from $475,000 a year ago.

And the 30-second spots on NBC’s “ER” dropped to $475,000 from $500,000.

According to the survey, the cost of a 30-second spot on ABC’s “Monday Night Football” fell to $330,000 from $400,000, while “Home Improvement” spots cost $295,000, down from $425,000 last season.

CBS, according to Variety, sold spots for “Cosby” at up to 50% off the $295,000 the show got last year for a 30-second spot. Spots on “Murphy Brown” went for $125,000, down from $280,000.

The figures should be viewed with some reservation, however. Advertising agencies, which do the buying, tend to alter the figures to their benefit to make them look good to their clients, while networks also tweak numbers. Still, Variety’s survey provides a legitimate yardstick.