BUYING TIME ON BROADCAST AND CABLE TV You can buy your own TV time by calling one
of the sales representatives for the station you want to advertise on – and you don’t
have to buy it through us to get great rates on our TV spots – but you can if you
want to. Here’s how it all works.
Local broadcast TV advertising is fairly straightforward and easy to understand.
They broadcast from an antenna over the air. The main over-the-air prime viewing
area is usually around a fifty mile radius of this antenna. Cable TV stations will
also carry this signal, which can expand the viewing area considerably.
If the station is an affiliate of a national network, such as CBS, Fox, ABC, or NBC,
they will be required to carry a given amount of those dopey nationally-seen commercials
in the network’s programming, but they will also have some breaks – usually on the
hour or half-hour, in which they can insert their own dopey local commercials.
will also have times in which there is no network programming and they run their
own local programming. This can be anything from local news to syndicated programs,
such as game shows, talk shows, or re-runs of older TV series, such as MASH.
cable TV systems do pretty much the same thing, but instead of having one network
on the system, they will usually have 40 or more different networks – you’ve seen
them, sports nets, news nets, all sorts of networks. Just as the local broadcast
networks do, the local cable TV systems can insert local TV commercials on most of
However, for local advertisers, cable TV has an advantage. Most cable TV operators
divide their systems up into “zones”. These zones in the larger cities are usually
anywhere from 40,000 subscribers to over 500,000, and that varies from community
to community. Local advertisers on cable have the advantage of being able to pick
out the zones that will work best for the demographic group they are trying to reach.
This means you can usually advertise on local cable television for a lot less than
you would have to pay for broadcast TV - if you are advertising in a few zones. On
a broadcast station, you are paying for a signal that reaches the entire community
– and that’s great, if you need to do that. But on cable, you have the ability to
target the people in your community most likely to buy from you – so you’re not paying
for your TV commercial to be seen in areas in which there are very few potential
customers for you.
So, how much does it cost to advertise on local TV? Well, that
Before we tackle that one, let’s talk about a few things it takes to make your TV
commercial successful. First, remember the reality of a TV commercial – the viewers
did not tune in to watch your TV commercial – they want to watch a program – and
your TV commercial is interrupting that program – so chances are the first time they
see it, they probably won’t be paying much attention to it. They may get up, go get
something to eat, go to the bathroom, you know the drill. If you’re honest, you’ll
admit that you do that too when you’re home just watching TV. And since this is what
everybody does, one of the most important things you have to do to make your TV commercial
successful is to run it over and over. TV people call this “frequency” – and you
need a good bit of it to have viewers actually remember and respond to your TV commercial.
Remember, repetition means retention.
You also need to run it in TV programs that your target audience – that is, the people
most likely to buy from you – are watching. That’s why you’ll see violent video games
that young men would like advertised on World Wrestling Entertainment and skin lotions
that young women would like advertised on Gossip Girl. Medical Hemorrhoidal prescriptions
that I need are usually advertised on the evening news programs.
There is quite a bit more to consider when you produce your TV commercial, but let’s
just concentrate on these two factors right now, and use them to consider the question
of how much it costs to be on cable or broadcast TV. You need to run your TV commercial
enough that people will remember it and you need to run it in the programs that your
target audience – those people most likely to buy from you – are watching.
much does your spot have to run for people to notice it? Most of the data suggests
that you should never run for any length less than one month, and that three months
is a good average time to run.
As a general rule of thumb, the more people watching
your spot, the more you will pay. So the popularity of the program your commercials
are seen in, and the actual amount of zones it is seen in, as well as how often it
is run - will affect the final price.
This information will help you determine a
budget for your TV advertising and a length of time that you will want it to run.
Think of it more like purchasing a car than purchasing a grocery item. When you buy
a car, you probably go into the negotiations with a good idea of how much you want
to spend and the kind of features your car should have. The same is true for advertising
– go in with a good idea of what your budget will be and what you expect from the
advertising program. Then share this with your salesperson right up front. Good salespeople
want you to be successful and understand you have a budget. Resist any upsell offers
that are above what you can reasonably invest in your advertising, based upon the
budget you’ve come up with.
So, again, how much does it cost to advertise on local
In some communities, you can still find some :30 cable TV spots for as little
as $5 each. In others, depending on the time, program, and zones, you can pay hundreds
for a :30 spot. A good place to start is to expect to pay no less than $1,000 per
month in most communities, and no less than $2,000 a month in some of the largest
cities for an effective campaign. Usually it’s anywhere from 10% - 40% higher for
a schedule on broadcast TV.
However, in smaller communities, especially those with
a lot of rural and farm communities, a broadcast station may be a better choice.
Always compare cable and broadcast for pricing and effectiveness of reaching your
When you’re ready to get a quote, you can call the sales department
of your local broadcast or cable company. You can also buy the time through a third
party, such as my little company, and let us negotiate a schedule for you.
buyer, Dick Galek, is a professional with years of experience purchasing broadcast
and cable TV. As a negotiator, Dick can probably get better rates than you can get
on your own. Dick has a number of preliminary questions he has to ask before he approaches
his contacts at the cable and broadcast companies. By answering these questions in
advance, you can help Dick get you the best schedule available.