American Idol’s ads are TV’s most expensive at $623,000; DWTS, Survivor get a third of that

American Idol makes more money than any other prime-time TV show, bringing in an average of $623,000 for a 30-second ad and $7 million every 30 minutes, Forbes reports. In other words, the eight-minute overrun last week was worth about $1.867 million. That’s down from the $745,000 per 30 seconds Fox earned for season six.

In second place and way behind in terms of revenue is Dancing with the Stars; its results show draws $205,000 for a 30-second commercial, which lands it in sixth place out of the top 15 most-expensive shows, while the actual performance episode only gets $196,000 per 30-second ad, making it 7th and drawing a total of $4.8 million an hour. No we know why there’s an hour of nonsense filler: it pays the bills, making $5 million an hour.

One of the two other reality shows to make the top 15 list was Survivor Gabon, which made $4.2 million an hour for CBS last fall, bringing in $204,000 for a 30-second ad. That’s the same overall revenue as CSI, but while the drama gets more viewers, its 30-second ads cost less: $201,000.

Forbes qualifies these numbers by calling them “estimates” and says that “[t]he amount individual buyers have actually handed over for these spots vary, depending on such things as the advertisers’ perceptions about the value of a show, the timing and size of their purchases and their clout with the respective network.” In addition, Forbes reports that “as much as 80% of these purchases are made ahead of the actual TV season” so “many of the purchasing decisions rely on anticipation, expectation and past results rather than actual in-season performance.”

Finally, there was Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which makes $4 million an hour and costs advertisers $169,000 per 30-second spot. No word how much extra it brings in from all the Sears whoring.

TV’s Biggest Moneymakers [Forbes]
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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 37, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.