Twenty years ago, 30 seconds of ad time during NBC’s “Seinfeld” was the most expensive real estate on TV. But it was still a steal compared to this year’s costliest programming, revealing just how much the splintering of TV’s audience is changing the math for marketers.
Advertisers paid an average of $575,000 per spot in the sendoff season of “Seinfeld” from 1997 through 1998, according to a contemporary Ad Age report. That’s a staggering $876,959 in 2017 dollars—topping everything then and now. This year’s most expensive show, “Sunday Night Football,” averaged just shy of $700,000 a throw for NBC in upfront negotiations
But the final season of “Seinfeld” also averaged 22.3 million viewers in advertisers’ coveted 18-to-49-year-old target, making it TV’s highest rated show. The cost per thousand impressions, or CPM in TV jargon, was $25.80 in 1997 dollars and $39.35 when inflation rates are factored in.
That would be an enormous discount on the per-thousand cost of today’s “Sunday Night Football.” Through the first four weeks of the new NFL season, “Sunday Night Football” is the top-rated prime-time broadcast program, with an average of 9.28 million viewers 18 to 49. So the target-demo CPM for “SNF” is $75.38, a 92 percent premium over the inflation-adjusted cost of reaching 1,000 such viewers in the final season of “Seinfeld.”