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How Much Does A TV Commercial Actually Cost?

how-much-does-a-tv-commercial-actually-cost?

While commercial advertising has changed dramatically in recent years, its effectiveness has remained steady. Advertising via commercials can bring significant attention and awareness to your brand. Yes, consumers are spending more time browsing the internet and scrolling through social media, but TV and streaming consumption still play a large role when it comes to screen time. In fact, according to Nielsen research, streaming accounts for 26% of all time spent on TV, and network and cable TV still hold strong, accounting for 64% of time spent.

But how much does a TV commercial actually cost? The short answer is that it depends. In general terms, the cost of producing a TV commercial can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars, if you’re sticking to the basics, to hundreds of thousands of dollars (potentially even millions) if you’re looking for a high-quality production value. 

In this article, we’ll cover the basics regarding the cost of a TV commercial including production costs, airtime costs, and additional cost variables you’ll need to know if you’re looking to advertise on TV. 

The Two Primary Costs of Commercials

When looking at the total cost of a commercial, there are two main factors to consider. Production costs and airtime costs will account for most of a television commercial’s budget and they are two huge investments you’ll need to consider if you are looking to film a commercial for your brand.

Let’s break down what production and airtime costs include.

Production Costs

The first step in determining your overall commercial cost is finding out the total production costs. Production costs can include things like filming crew, actors, makeup artists, studio rentals, directors, editors, pre and post-production work, travel expenses, etc. Production costs will likely take up the majority of your budget as it’s a crucial step in creating a quality commercial. 

Average Production Costs

Average production costs will vary dramatically depending on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re looking to get your name and brand out there with minimal effort, you could get by with spending around $1,000 or less, but if you’re looking for professional high-quality production value, you could be hitting hundreds of thousands or a million dollars easily. The choice will depend on a variety of factors and if you’re utilizing in-house production or agency efforts.

Production Complexity

Production complexity is a significant determinant of overall commercial cost. Commercials that lean on the simple side, using voiceover actors and stock imagery, will be significantly less than if you needed to hire a production crew, actors, etc. Before you even get into the production stages, it’s important to determine your goals right off the bat so they can align with both your strategy and budget. 

Commercial Length

Commercial length is another important factor that will determine the total cost of your investment. Length will not only play a role in production costs but airtime costs as well (more on that in a bit). The most common commercial length for TV comes in at around 15 to 30 seconds. Many broadcasters will also sell shorter or longer spots and some streaming platforms offer even more flexibility. 

When shooting a commercial, it’s important to consider what lengths you’ll be running and it’s a good idea to have multiple options to choose from. Having multiple commercial lengths and options can mean a longer shoot day and additional post-production costs so keep that in mind during the initial planning phases. 

Post-Production

Once filming wraps, the work doesn’t stop. Now, the commercial will move into the post-production stage. After a commercial shoot, post-production will include line items like editing, sound mixing, animation, encoding, etc. 

Airtime Costs

The second major cost, after the production process, is airtime cost which is the price you’ll pay to have your commercial appear on various networks. This is yet another large investment you’ll need to plan and strategize for to ensure you are getting the most bang for your buck. 

Average broadcasting costs can vary greatly depending on factors like network, time, location, and more. Check out these recent stats to show just how much airtime costs can fluctuate:

  • During the 2023 Super Bowl, most 30-second ad spots cost between $6 million and $7 million (Source)
  • ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” is the most costly primetime scripted series coming in at $207,498 for a 30-second commercial (Source)
  • Fox’s “The Masked Singer” came in at $165,716 for commercial time in the 2022-2023 season (Source)

Let’s dive into a few of the top factors that impact commercial cost.

Network or Program Choice

Selecting a specific network or show to advertise your commercial on is a huge factor when it comes to price. Highly viewed networks or programs will typically charge a higher price for advertising spots, and rightfully so. If you are dead set on having your commercial appear during a specific show, you’ll need to research their specific rates and account for them in your initial budget. 

Time of Day, Week, and Year

The time of year has a large impact on advertising costs as well. Take note that costs usually spike during culturally significant events, holidays, or games like the Super Bowl, for example. The day of the week and time of day can also have an effect on advertising costs. For example, if there is a higher viewership on a certain day of the week, it’s likely that a network will charge more. If you’re looking to highlight your commercial during primetime, you’ll definitely see an increase in price as well.

Broadcast, Cable, or Internet Placement

In the commercial planning process, you’ll want to ask yourself where you want your commercial(s) to live. Are you looking to have them placed on broadcast platforms (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.), cable (HGTV, TLC, TNT, etc.), or Internet placements? Each come in at different price points, but across the board, if there’s higher viewership, there will likely be a higher price point as well.

Location

Another factor to consider when determining airtime costs is the region you are looking to advertise in. A localized commercial in a more rural area will be significantly less as opposed to advertising in a highly populated area with more potential viewership. 

Demand for Ad Spot

All of the factors we mentioned above have an impact on demand. Commercial breaks only have so many openings, therefore when demand is high, prices are more likely to surge. 

Other TV Advertising Cost Variables

While we covered a lot of costs to factor into your commercial budget in the production and airtime phases, there are a few other variables to consider. 

  • Linear vs. Streaming & CTV – Does your mind immediately wander to linear TV when we mention commercials? If so, it’s time to broaden your horizons to include streaming and CTV into your marketing mix. The costs vary depending on the format you choose to promote your commercial, but streaming and CTV options are highly targeted and can be customized to your budget so you can better reach your intended audience(s). 
  • Analytics – Highly effective marketers will analyze an ad’s impact on factors like brand lift or ROAS to optimize future campaigns. This cost is highly variable depending on the platform and media buying strategy, but it’s important to invest in methods for tracking success to ensure you are reaching your desired KPIs.

Conclusion

Interested in learning more about the costs associated with commercials? Looking to move into the world of streaming and CTV advertising? Visit our Performance Streaming services page, download our Ultimate Guide to Performance Streaming, or contact us today to speak with an expert.

This originally appeared on the Tinuiti Blog and is available here for further discovery.
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