Jaw-dropping TV advertising costs go well into the millions for high-ticket Super Bowl commercials, but those notoriously expensive ads don’t reflect the average cost of airing commercials on television. The average TV advertising cost to run a 30-second commercial on a national network is $104,700. Besides that, you will also need to plan for production costs starting at around $2,000 to $5,000 at the low end up to $50,000 or even more.
To determine how much it will cost to advertise on TV, here’s what you need to know:
Main TV Advertising Costs
The factors that determine how much a TV ad costs involve two main expenses: production and distribution (which in this case is broadcasting). Production costs include the expenses of creating the actual television commercial, such as hiring an ad agency and a professional production crew.
TV ad production costs can vary greatly, but you can expect it to cost anywhere from $2,000 to $50,000. Broadcasting costs, or distribution, are the main expense, averaging just under $105,000 for a 30-second commercial on network television.
- TV ad production costs: As little as $1,000 to over $50,000
- Broadcasting costs: Averages $104,700, but can cost more than $1 million
Average TV Ad Production Costs
You can go about producing a TV commercial in a number of ways, depending on you and your team’s creative capabilities as well as your advertising budget. A team that is able to produce their own TV ad in-house might spend as little as $1,000.
On the other hand, a business that outsources to an ad agency for a professionally produced TV commercial will spend closer to $10,000 or $20,000, but it can be upward of $50,000. This cost can further increase exponentially if, for instance, a celebrity is hired to appear in the ad or provide voice-over services.
Keep in mind that the length of your commercial will influence both production and broadcasting costs. So a shorter commercial (e.g., 10 to 15 seconds) will naturally cost less to create and air than a longer commercial (e.g., 30 to 60 seconds).
Pro tip: If you don’t have an in-house production team, you can try searching for a professional team to produce your commercial through platforms like Fiverr. These professionals usually charge less than $1,000 to produce 30-second commercials.
Average TV Ad Broadcasting Costs
For local television stations, advertisers can expect to pay a minimum of $5 per 1,000 viewers for a 30-second commercial. But this depends drastically on which shows you want your commercials to air on. For example, the average 30-second ad during NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” cost $811,679 in 2021, while it cost $317,981 on average to air the commercial on NBC’s “This Is Us.”
In addition, how frequently you want your ad to appear will also impact your total broadcasting costs. If you’re on a budget or not sure you want to make such a hefty investment, consider alternative advertising and marketing channels, such as, say, billboard ads, or even airing your commercial online through platforms like YouTube.
Factors That Determine TV Advertising Costs
Television advertising is priced on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis, which is the cost for your ad to be seen by 1,000 people. The CPM varies widely depending on a few different factors, the biggest of which is location. To get estimated costs for airing a 60-second TV commercial in different regional markets, check out the following figures in this TV ad pricing chart from the media experts at Casual Precision.
60-Second TV Advertising Cost by Market in 2020
New York City
Keep in mind that the most recent CPM data comes from 2020. However, the average CPM for national TV broadcasting in 2021 follows the same trends. Here is the average North American CPM for network TV in contrast with the CPM for other online and offline marketing mediums, based on this TV ad pricing chart from the marketing experts at Top Draw.
In general, while TV advertising costs a large amount upfront, its far-reaching range means that its CPM stays relatively affordable. However, consider that CPM only tracks views, which doesn’t necessarily equate to a higher rate of engagement or more sales.
What Determines How Much a TV Ad Costs
CPM pricing depends on how desirable the audience is to potential advertisers. For example, a TV show with a primarily female audience will be more desirable for a company that sells products purchased primarily by women. Additionally, viewer demographics, timing, and the location in which the ad airs can mean higher or lower ad costs.
These are the primary factors determining how much a TV ad will cost:
- Network and TV show: TV networks that air popular shows will charge more for advertising slots. For example, you can expect to pay over $300,000 to air your commercial during “This Is Us.”
- Broadcast vs cable: Broadcast refers to the local station affiliates of national networks such as ABC, NBC, and CBS. Cable refers to the plethora of stations found in cable and satellite television programming, and now in streaming apps, like MTV, VH1, HGTV, CNN, and TLC. The CPM to advertise on a local broadcast station is typically less than cable since cable attracts a more targeted and wealthier demographic.
- Time of year: If there’s a highly contested political race coming up, candidates are often willing to pay a higher than usual price for TV advertising. Events like highly anticipated sporting events (e.g., the Olympic Games or the Super Bowl) can also drive up costs.
- Time of day: Prime time commercial ad spots are in the evening between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. (or from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in some regions), when most people are watching TV. Given the expanded viewership, the cost of advertising on TV during this period is typically higher than at other times of the day.
- Airtime: As previously mentioned, the length of your commercial significantly impacts how much a TV ad will cost in terms of both production and broadcasting expenses. Airtime for a short ad (e.g., 10 seconds) will cost a lot less than a 60-second time slot.
- Audience size: Airing your commercials in large urban areas allows you to reach more viewers with one commercial, so the cost to advertise in New York City is far greater than the cost of TV advertising in more rural regions.
- Demand: There are typically four commercial breaks in a half-hour show, each lasting two minutes. This equates to a total of 16 30-second commercials. With a limited number of ad spots available, the more demand and advertiser competition there is, the higher the price.
TV advertising costs vary depending on any number of factors: viewer demographics, regional market, frequency and timing of ad placement, and audience behavioral factors like whether viewers can fast forward through commercials. Keeping all of this in mind will better prepare you to understand how much it costs to air commercials on television, and how to get the most from your TV advertising dollars.
Pros & Cons of TV Advertising
When weighing the cost-benefit of TV advertising, start with the pros and cons. Pros include the likelihood your TV ad will increase sales and viewer engagement, the ability to pair site and sound, and a large audience reach. Downsides include limited targeting options, the need to entertain the audience, the tendency for people to ignore or skip commercials, limited performance data available, and the large upfront expense involved.
Pros of TV Advertising
Cons of TV Advertising
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is TV advertising still effective?
Digital advertising is poised to outpace TV advertising in ad expenditures. But a study done by Amplified Intelligence shows that TV still trumps digital advertising in short-term revenue (more consumers buy products after seeing a TV commercial than an ad from platforms like Facebook). Consumers seem to agree; a Gfk/TVB study found that consumers regard TV marketing as the top influencer of their purchase decisions.
How can I better target my audience through TV advertising?
One of the strengths of TV advertising is also its disadvantage. Having an extremely wide audience means that many viewers might not represent your target demographic. You can combat this by bidding on commercial slots on channels and programs your target audience likely watches. For example, you can find and advertise during TV shows popular with females, ages 25-40.
How do I create a TV commercial?
In general, the process of creating a TV commercial involves building an ad strategy, developing ad creative (copy, scripts, vision boards, concepts, and so on), and producing it in-house or by finding a production agency. Once produced, you need to secure ad slots at the right time and on the best networks for airing your commercial. Get the complete breakdown of the steps involved to get a commercial on TV.
TV advertising isn’t the most budget-friendly way to promote your business when you look at how much ads cost. Yet it remains popular as one of the most effective ways to promote a message to a large audience, increase brand awareness, and stay top of mind. Depending on which network you advertise on, the length of your commercial, and competition for ad slots, your TV advertising costs will likely range into tens of thousands of dollars.