TV Ad Market Shows Improvement

Cost of a spot still down, but didn't drop as much as same quarter last year

The cost of television ad spots is still falling, but by a much smaller percentage than in previous quarters.

New York media buying agency TargetCast Friday reported that the average cost of a 30-second ad, in first quarter this year, dropped by only 3.7% to $126,204, compared with the same quarter last year. The decline in the fourth quarter of 2008 was 15%.

According to TargetCast's data, which is derived from New York based measurement company Sqad, Fox was the most-expensive network with a unit cost of $253,000, while NBC had the lowest at $85,000.Figures were not provided for ABC or CBS.

Gary Carr, executive director of national broadcast at the agency, said the ad market was helped slightly because of two factors which slowed the decline: a stabilization in ratings this quarter compared with the start of 2008 which was hurt by the writers strike and the upfront marketplace which was fairly healthy. Although the scatter market was less than robust, the networks needed to give away 25% fewer no-charge units to satisfy audience guarantees, thus keeping unit prices from falling too much.