By Alan Gottesman

Webenomics The Media Group at Bozell prepared a review of the 1996/1997 network TV prime-time season. The headline news is that viewership continues to erode, and the four-web share dropped below 60 percent for the first time. Advertisers have been griping about the sag in ratings and share numbers for years, yet the price of airtime keeps going up. It’s a clear case of paying more and getting less. But virtually all network ad buys are negotiated individually, and advertisers have plenty of chances to resist the higher prices–don’t buy. But they do. In fact, advertisers through their buying, more than networks through their selling, are the ones who drive prices up. Network prime-time television is the most economical way to sprinkle an ad message on a national audience. Try to duplicate a full-network reach with buys in individual markets. The cost to hit markets through, roughly, rank No. 50, is the same as the cost of a network spot. While the number of advertisers increases each year, the number of available rating points is dropping. A funny thing happens when demand rises or supply falls: Prices go up. When both happen at the same time, prices go up even faster! –Alan Gottesman ( is principal of West End Consulting.


The cost of a full-year prime-time rating point increased more than 17 percent this season, and by almost 12 percent, compounded, over the past four seasons.


…..Four-network rating…..41.3…..43.2…..40.1…..37.3…..34.9

…..Est. season revenue…..$10,229…..$10,576…..$11,271…..$12,325…..$13,506


…..Sources: BJK&E, McCann-Erickson, West End Research. Dollar data in millions

Copyright ASM Communications, Inc. (1997) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED