Programming execs described pricing for scatter ads in Q1 as being stable, but now we have a clearer idea of what that means: The average unit cost for a 30-second prime time spot on the major broadcast networks dipped 2% vs the period last year to $111,754, according to an analysis out today from media agency TargetCast. The firm, using data from NetCosts and research firm SQAD, says that Fox was on top with $198,088. It was followed by CBS ($115,772), ABC ($95,992) and NBC ($86,914). Although prices dipped slightly, TargetCast says that Q1 was the eighth straight quarter in which ad prices “were virtually flat or increased.” That’s a contrast to the previous period when broadcasters’ unit costs fell as they grappled with declining ratings and the recession. The scatter market was softer this year, TargetCast says, because many advertisers — scared by soaring scatter prices in 2010 and 2011 as the economy recovered — committed more of their budgets to upfront sales. As for cable, prices to reach 24-to-54 year olds at the top 15 ad-supported networks rose 3% to $12,998. ESPN led the pack at $37,329, with TNT a distant second at $18,071.
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