Everything You Need to Know About TV Advertising Costs
If you’ve ever wondered how much a 30-second commercial costs, the short answer is: a lot. TV advertising costs are well-known to reach atmospheric heights, with 30-second Super Bowl ad pricing from $6 to $7 million in 2023. But this is far from average—you can run TV commercials for as little as $1,000 a month locally or around $200,000 nationally.
Keep reading to learn more about TV advertising costs, from the costs of ad production to the average prices for broadcasting a commercial on TV.
General 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 creating the actual television commercial, such as hiring an ad agency and a professional production crew. Our article detailing how to get a commercial on TV offers more information about TV ad production.
On the other hand, broadcasting or distribution costs are the prices you pay a TV network (whether regional or national) to air your commercial. More recently, advertising on streaming services has steadily become a more viable medium for advertisers to build brand awareness with their audience.
TV ad production costs vary greatly, but you can expect it to cost anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000. The factors that come into these costs include the scale of your production, whether you’re hiring a media production agency, and costs to buy or rent production equipment and studio space.
The cost to broadcast a 30-second commercial on network television averages just under $105,000. These costs vary depending mostly on your chosen broadcast area (regional vs national), time slot (prime-time slots are more expensive), and the length of your commercial.
- TV ad production costs: As little as $1,000 to over $50,000
- Broadcasting costs: Averages $104,700, but can go over $1 million for national prime-time slots, or as low as $25 for regional TV, while streaming service ads cost an average of $30 per 1,000 impressions
Average TV Ad Production Costs
You can produce a TV commercial in multiple ways, depending on your team’s creative capabilities and advertising budget. Teams producing their own TV ad in-house might spend as little as $1,000 with proper budgeting. This figure often includes costs for buying or renting production equipment such as cameras, microphones, and lighting, hiring talent like actors or voice-over artists, and rent for studio space.
On the other hand, outsourcing to an ad agency for a professionally produced TV commercial will cost closer to $10,000 or $20,000, but it can be upward of $50,000. This cost can increase exponentially if, for instance, a celebrity is hired to appear in the ad, or if your video requires complex special effects requiring additional talent.
- In-house TV ad productions can cost as little as $1,000
- Outsourced TV ad productions can cost between $10,000 and $50,000
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).
Average TV Ad Broadcasting Costs
For local television stations, advertisers can expect to pay between $5 and $100 per 1,000 viewers for a 30-second commercial. But when it comes to nationwide broadcasting, costs increase drastically.
Here are some related TV ad cost stats:
- In 2022, it cost an average of $828,500 to air a 30-second ad during NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”
- A commercial on “This Is Us” cost an average of $317,981—the highest for any scripted show in the 2021-2022 season.
- In the 2022-2023 season, the average TV ad cost was $47.14 per 1,000 viewers in a prime-time slot.
Meanwhile, the proliferation of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ has opened up new avenues for advertisers. Advertisements for these services, also known as over-the-top (OTT) advertising, can cost anywhere between $25 and $75 per 1,000 impressions.
In addition, how frequently you want your ad to appear will also impact your total broadcasting costs. If you’re on a budget or unsure you want to make such a hefty investment, consider alternative advertising and marketing channels, such as billboard ads or airing your commercial online through platforms like YouTube.
Also, consider prioritizing reach over frequency of ad placements. Arthur Worsley, the founder of The Art of Living and a former McKinsey Associate who holds an MA in psychology from Oxford University, notes that the impact on conversion diminishes each time an individual views the same TV ad.
Worsley says, “Research has shown that reaching one additional new person with a TV ad is often far more impactful on conversions than reaching the same person more than once. This means expanding the reach of TV advertising to new audiences, rather than increasing frequency to existing audiences, can drive significant results for a fraction of the cost.”
Factors That Determine TV Advertising Costs
Television advertising is priced on a cost-per-mille (mille is Latin for “thousand”) or CPM basis, which is the cost for your ad to be seen by 1,000 people. The CPM varies widely depending on various factors, such as where your ad is broadcasted, how beneficial each audience set is to advertisers, and how many advertisers are willing to pay for limited ad slots, among other factors.
For example, a TV show with a predominantly female audience will be more desirable for a company that sells products aimed primarily at women. Additionally, viewer demographics, timing, and the location in which the ad airs can mean higher or lower ad costs.
These are the factors determining how much it costs to advertise on TV:
- Network and TV show: TV networks that air popular shows will charge more for advertising slots. For example, you can expect to pay over $800,000 to air your commercial during NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” one of their most-watched programs.
- 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 cable and satellite television programming stations, 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: Nationwide social and cultural events that affect many people also influence TV advertising costs. If a highly contested political race is coming up, candidates are often willing to pay a higher-than-usual price for TV advertising. Events like highly anticipated televised sports (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 and 11 p.m. (or from 7 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: The length of your commercial impacts how much a TV ad will cost in terms of both production and broadcasting expenses. Airtime for a short, 10-second ad will cost much less than a 60-second time slot.
- Location: Airing your commercials in large, densely populated 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 a rural region.
- Demand: There are typically two or three commercial breaks in a half-hour show, each lasting two minutes. This equates to a total of 12 30-second commercials. With a limited number of ad spots available, the more demand and advertising competition there is, the higher the price.
TV commercial costs vary depending on various factors: broadcast medium, TV show, viewer demographics, audience location, frequency and timing of ad placement, and more. Keeping all of these 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.
30-second TV Ad Cost by Cable TV Channel
How much a 30-second TV commercial costs varies drastically based on the desired broadcast location. To get ad rates for regional TV, you’ll need to contact local TV stations. However, for estimated advertising costs for cable TV, check out the pricing table below. It includes some of the most popular cable TV channels.
$25 to $100
$20 to $90
$50 to $250
$45 to $125
$45 to $250
$35 to $150
$50 to $400
$20 to $80
$15 to $65
$35 to $150
(Source: DX Media Direct)
Cost of TV Advertising Alternatives
Beyond television, several other media channels are available to broadcast your commercial, from billboards to radio. Here is the average CPM for other forms of broadcast media.
(Source: Solomon Partners, Ad Quick)
In general, while TV advertising costs a higher amount upfront, its far-reaching range means that its CPM stays relatively affordable. However, CPM only tracks views, which doesn’t necessarily equate to higher engagement or more sales.
5 Expert Tips for Maximizing TV Ad Spend
The cost of television advertising is considerable, and especially so for small businesses. So we reached out to media and advertising experts and asked for tips you can use to avoid wasted ad spend and improve your return on investment. Here’s what they had to say:
Colin Jeffries, vice president of Marketing and Communications at BrightView Health and host of the Rethink Marketing Podcast, advises that knowing your goal, audience, and times to avoid is key:
- Define your measure of success: If you want to drive branded search volume to my website, hitting 15% to 20% market penetration with an average frequency of five times per week in a metro of 250,000 to 1,000,000 people will accomplish that. Spending to hit 10% market penetration and a frequency of 3 times per week will waste money, as will spend that hits 20% market penetration and a frequency of 20 times per week.
- Know your audience: The fewer people who see an ad, the cheaper that airtime is. A spot that airs during an NFL post-kickoff break will get a lot more reach—but also cost a lot more—than a spot that airs at 4 a.m. during an old TV show rerun. The key here is to know your target audience. If they are awake watching reruns at 4 a.m., let’s not waste the money on NFL games.
- Steer clear of artificially inflated seasons: To get the cheapest spots, avoid times when people are watching TV or when the market is falsely inflated. Hotly contested political races mean slots are more expensive for everyone, so it’s best to avoid those times altogether.
The founder and CEO of BankingGeek, Max Benz, says to lean into data and automation:
- Use data to control costs: When it comes to controlling costs, use data-driven optimization. This means leveraging insights gleaned from analytics and utilizing that data to adjust bids, target audiences, and optimize creative messaging.
- Get matched to your audience automatically: Using programmatic buying for TV advertising increases efficiency by automatically matching relevant ad inventory with your targeting criteria. This can reduce costs and help you reach more members of your target audience.
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 credibility offered by the medium, and the ability to reach a broad and captivated audience. Downsides include limited targeting options and tracking data, the tendency for people to ignore or skip commercials, and the large upfront expense involved.
|Reach a wide and captive audience||Less precise audience targeting|
|Advertise regionally or nationwide||TV commercial views don't always translate to increased revenue|
|Tell a story in a way that isn’t possible in print or text||No possibilities for audience interaction|
|No competition for screen space, unlike with social media advertising||Difficult to track and measure performance|
|Improved brand perceptions—advertising on TV makes brands appear more successful, legitimate, and professional||Requires a large upfront investment|
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is TV advertising still effective?
While digital advertising is poised to outpace TV advertising in ad expenditure, recent studies show that consumers find advertisements from traditional media outlets—including TV commercials—more trustworthy than digital ads. Moreover, according to research by Finecast and Amplified Intelligence, TV ads command more active and consistent audience attention than digital platforms, positively translating to more sales.
How can I better target my audience through TV advertising?
The best way to reach your target audience with TV advertising is through intensive research. Dig deep into the makeup of the audiences of networks (local or national) and TV shows to find the audience set that best matches your target market. Then, bid on the time slot when they will most likely be watching TV.
How do I create a TV commercial?
Creating a TV commercial involves building an ad strategy and deciding on a method of production: either in-house or through an agency. Next, you’ll need to develop an ad concept and ad creative (copy, scripts, vision boards, and so on), hire talent, produce your commercial, and secure ad slots. If you’re working with an agency, they may handle all of this for you. Get the complete breakdown of the steps to get a commercial on TV.
While TV advertising costs can be lavish compared to other mediums, they’ve been a mainstay in the advertising world for many years due to their consistent effectiveness. From easily connecting with wide audiences and imparting instant trust to fostering brand loyalty, the benefits of TV advertising often outweigh its costs in the long run.
Now that you know how much TV advertising costs, start creating your own with professionals on Fiverr. You’ll find professionals for everything from scriptwriting to voice-over recording at more affordable prices.