We’ve all heard of the jaw-dropping price tags of Super Bowl commercials, but how much do television advertisements really cost the average business? Well, the good news is that it’s not in the millions, but no matter how you slice it, advertising on TV isn’t cheap. In fact, the average TV ad costs $115,000 for a 30-second commercial on a national network—and that’s on top of production costs, which average around $2,000 to $5,000 on the low end.
However, as these are averages, you might find television costs less in your area based on the needs of your specific campaign. We’ll cover the factors that can influence the cost of television advertising in greater detail to help you determine if this marketing strategy makes sense for your business.
The Main Costs of TV Advertising
Advertising on television involves two main costs: production and distribution (in this case, broadcasting). Production costs involve the expense of creating the actual television commercial, such as hiring an ad agency and professional production crew. This cost can vary greatly, but you can expect it to cost anywhere from $2,000 to $50,000. Broadcasting costs are the main expense, averaging around $115,000 for a 30-second commercial.
- TV ad production costs: As little as $2,000 to over $50,000
- Broadcasting costs: Averages $155,000, 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 $2,000, whereas a business that outsources to an ad agency for a TV commercial produced by professionals will cost closer to $10,000 to $20,000, but can be upward of $50,000.
Keep in mind that the length of your commercial will influence both production and broadcasting costs. Naturally, a shorter commercial (e.g., 10 to 15 seconds) will cost less to create and air compared to a longer commercial (e.g., 30 to 60 seconds).
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. Based on data provided by Adage, a 30-second spot broadcast nationally averaged around $115,000 in 2020. The average cost placements for 30-second Super Bowl ads in 2020 were upwards of $5.6 million. Of course, how frequently you run your ad will also impact your total broadcasting costs.
If you’re on a budget and not sure you want to invest a ton, consider alternative advertising and marketing channels, such as, say, billboard ads.
Factors That Determine Television 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 markets, consider the following figures from the experts at Casual Precision, a media agency that specializes in offline advertising (TV and radio).
60-second Television Ad Cost Estimates by Market 2020
New York City
Factors Affecting TV Ad Cost
The CPM 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 that are 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 affecting television advertising costs:
- Network and TV show: TV networks that air popular shows will charge more for their advertising spots. For example, you can expect to pay over $285,000 to air your commercial during “The Big Bang Theory.”
- Broadcast vs cable: Broadcast refers to the local station affiliates of national networks such as ABC, NBC, and CBS. Cable refers to the stations you have to pay extra for, such as MTV, VH1, 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 will be willing to pay a higher than usual price for TV advertising. Other events, such as anticipated sporting events (e.g., the Olympic Games or the Super Bowl), can also drive up costs.
- Time of day: Prime time ad spots are in the evening between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., when most people are watching TV. Given the expanded viewership, the cost of ads run during this period is typically higher than other times of the day.
- Airtime: The length of your TV advertisement will greatly impact the 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: More advertisers want to air their commercials in big cities so they can reach more viewers with one commercial, which is why the cost to advertise in New York City is so much more than the cost in a small town.
- Demand: There are typically four commercial breaks in a half-hour show, each lasting two minutes (equivalent to 16 30-second commercials). With a limited number of ad spots available, the more demand there is, the higher the price.
As you consider TV advertising, remember that costs can vary depending on factors like the general demographics of the viewers, where and when the advertisement runs, the size of the viewership, and audience behavioral factors like whether viewers can fast forward through commercials. Keeping these in mind will help prepare you for changing ad cost quotes.
Pros & Cons of TV Advertising
When weighing the cost benefit of TV advertising, a good place to start is with its pros and cons. Pros include the likelihood a TV ad will increase sales and viewer engagement, the ability to pair site and sound, and a large audience reach, whereas cons include limited targeting options, the need to entertain the audience, the tendency for people to not pay attention during commercials, limited performance data available, and the large upfront expenses involved.
Pros of TV Advertising
Cons of TV Advertising
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is TV advertising still effective?
Adobe’s study of 1,000 TV buyers found that 2018 and 2019, marketers still regarded TV advertising as more effective than many other leading marketing avenues, including radio, search, and social media advertising. They believe it is more effective in building consumers’ emotional connections with brands. Consumers seem to agree; a Gfk/TVB study found that consumers regard TV marketing as the top influencer of their purchase decisions.
How do you create a TV commercial?
Most businesses looking to create a TV commercial will be tasked with finding the right agency to produce the TV commercial and choose which networks and airtimes are best suited for the business and its goal. In general, the process of creating a TV commercial involves developing ad creative, building an ad strategy, producing the TV commercial, and airing the commercial. Get the complete breakdown on the steps involved to get an ad on TV.
Television advertising isn’t the most budget-friendly form of advertising. And yet, it remains a popular channel regardless as it can be a very effective way to promote a message to a wide audience, increase brand awareness, and stay top of mind. Depending on a variety of factors, including the network you want to advertise on, the length of the TV ad, and the competition for the time slot, expect to invest thousands to create and broadcast an effective TV ad.