Which Broadcast Shows Are The Biggest Ad Revenue Earners So Far?

Categories: TV Advertising

Written By

March 18th, 2010

Adults 18-49 ratings set the broadcast primetime advertising rates. Our weekly charts of the top broadcast shows indicate which shows had the highest 18-49 ratings, but since they necessarily treat 30 minute shows the same as longer hour shows, they don't reliably indicate which shows have grabbed the most advertising revenue.

While industry sources can estimate advertising rates after the fact, we can make a pretty good guess, by multiplying each broadcast show's adults 18-49 average ratings by their total telecast time so far this season, which shows have earned the most advertising revenue so far this season.

It's an interesting list to look at with a few caveats:

  • It devalues shows that are still in progress adding to their season ad revenue (all shows except the 2 football shows and Biggest Loser 8) I'll do this again at the end of the season with commercial ratings if possible, to give the clearest picture for the season as a whole.
  • Since it uses Most Current program ratings, which are mostly Live+7 Day DVR viewing, it overvalues shows with lots of DVR viewing after the airdate which doesn't translate into lots more advertising revenue (like scripted shows), and undervalues sports and to a lesser extent unscripted shows.
  • It doesn't take into account out of slot repeats or specials at all, which provide increased ad revenue but aren't included in the season average ratings.
  • It doesn't estimate profitability, only revenue. For example, the conventional wisdom is that while Sunday Night Football is an advertising gold mine, its license fees and production costs eat up most if not all of that revenue. Forbes had some guesses as to 2009 show profitability.

Even with all those caveats, its interesting to note the high rating and duration magnitude of Sunday Night Football makes it an advertising magnet. And both regular American Idol nights will pass Grey's Anatomy and House in this list by the end of the season. Adding both "seasons" of Biggest Loser together give you an idea of the giant ad money NBC is getting from it.

Show Net 18-49 rating avg. (Most Current) Duration (min) Relative Ad Revenue
NBC Sunday Night Football NBC 7.5 2,873 1.00
American Idol-TUE FOX 10.3 786 0.38
GREY'S ANATOMY ABC 5.4 1,279 0.32
HOUSE FOX 5.2 1,272 0.31
American Idol-WED FOX 9.5 692 0.31
Biggest Loser 8 NBC 4.2 1,542 0.30
NCIS CBS 4.3 1,440 0.29
CSI: MIAMI CBS 3.8 1,500 0.26
Desperate Housewives ABC 5.2 1,037 0.25
Criminal Minds CBS 3.9 1,320 0.24
NCIS: LOS ANGELES CBS 3.7 1,379 0.24
THE Mentalist CBS 4.0 1,200 0.22
The Bachelor ABC 4.3 1,087 0.22
Dancing with the Stars ABC 3.9 1,187 0.21
Private Practice ABC 3.7 1,241 0.21
CSI: NY CBS 3.4 1,320 0.21
CSI CBS 3.9 1,140 0.21
The Big Bang Theory CBS 5.4 750 0.19
Extreme Makeover:HM ED ABC 2.9 1,380 0.19
THE Good Wife CBS 2.8 1,381 0.18
Biggest Loser 9 NBC 4.0 965 0.18
Two and a Half Men CBS 4.9 750 0.17
BONES FOX 3.3 1,081 0.17
BROTHERS & SISTERS ABC 3.5 1,003 0.16

Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2009 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

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