New York Area Politicians Pay Less For TV Spots Than General Advertisers
With a new poll showing her falling substantially behind, Linda McMahon could increase her robust spending even more as she battles to represent Connecticut in the U.S. Senate. In the New York market, McMahon has already bought what looks to be the year's most expensive spot for a political candidate.
The former WWE executive paid $50,000 to air a 30-second spot in the Sept. 12 season opener for the New York Giants on the local Fox station WNYW. Still, there are two weeks before Election Day, and that amount could be eclipsed. One possibility: if the New York Yankees make the World Series, candidates might pay huge amounts to buy time on WNYW.
The NFL's Giants are popular in southern Connecticut, likely convincing McMahon to pay the $50,000. Another well-funded candidate -- New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is running for governor -- also has confidence that the NFL provides a strong platform. Yesterday, he used Jets and Giants games as part of a pricey roadblock of sorts.
Cuomo booked two 30-second spots in the afternoon Jets game on the CBS station WCBS for $35,000 each. He also scheduled a unit in "60 Minutes" following the game for another $45,000.
Then, he planned a $36,000 ad during the 1 p.m. Giants game on the Fox station, and one later in the National League Championship Series for $30,000. Opposite baseball, he was to run two spots in "Sunday Night Football" on NBC-owned WNBC and pay $22,000 a pop, according to records kept at the stations.
Of course, with Fox's WNYW unavailable in Cablevision homes Sunday, Cuomo's planned spots in the Giants and baseball games lost value, and he could receive a slew of bonus spots, if not cash back.
In New York, the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC stations are all owned and operated by their respective networks. The CW affiliate, WPIX, is owned by Tribune.
New York is the country's largest market, but certain spots can cost more in other big markets where races are tighter or candidates are better funded.
Stations get a few minutes an hour in highly rated network programming to sell themselves. Ad pricing for candidates can provide guidance in determining costs, but conclusions can be limited.
For the most part, stations can charge candidates only the "lowest unit rate" (LUR) -- the cheapest price for a particular placement. A commercial advertiser might pay double or much more for the same class of time.
The LUR amounts can bounce up and down frequently in line with demand. The LURs are available within 45 days of a primary, and 60 days of a general election.
Some candidate spots booked ahead of time can be preempted by stations. On the flip side, candidates can opt to cancel.
Other New York stations may bring in more political dollars this fall, but ABC-owned WABC looks to command the highest price for a scripted show. New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand has booked a $45,000 spot in "Grey's Anatomy" for Oct. 28.
A tad cheaper, she also plans to sing her praises for $40,000 on Oct. 26 during WNYW's broadcast of "Glee." A "Glee" spot last week cost her $30,000, while another is scheduled for Tuesday at the same price.
Gillibrand also has reserved a $30,000 ad on "Desperate Housewives" later this month on WABC. And she had a deal to pay $28,000 for the show last night. Also on WABC, Cuomo and Gillibrand have booked $30,000 units later this month on the "Dancing with the Stars" results show. Cuomo has run ads for $25,000 on "Grey's Anatomy."
On Fox's WNYW, the heavy-spending Gillibrand is in the middle of a three-week run of $25,000 spots on three straight episodes of Fox's "House." WNBC's "Law & Order: Los Angeles" has also drawn that amount, but future bookings are for 20% less.
The late local news has always been loaded with political ads. The LUR on top-rated WNBC's 11 p.m. newscast this month is listed at $4,500. The station, however, has also been getting $7,800 via a "candidate discount rate." When paying a CDR rate, spots are guaranteed to run and cannot be preempted. A CDR cost is lower than what the majority of general advertisers pay.
At WABC, the second-place newscast has been getting $4,300-$6,000. WCBS -- which trails by a large margin -- has been charging $3,200-$5,400, the latter a CDR rate. A second Fox-owned channel, WWOR, also has an 11 p.m. broadcast.
The Fox and CW stations run full-hour newscasts at 10 p.m. WNYW has been making deals at $3,500-$4,200. At WPIX, candidates pay $1,700 for placement in the first 30 minutes and $1,450 in the second half hour.
Back in prime time, Cuomo has an $18,000 spot scheduled for tonight on "Lie to Me" on the Fox station. WNYW has also been charging as much as $18,000 for "Hell's Kitchen" and $13,500 for "Fringe."
At WABC, a "Brothers & Sisters" spot is booked at $21,000, while one on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is priced at $15,000. Cuomo had a deal to be in new drama "Detroit 1-8-7" last Tuesday for $10,000.
On WCBS, Gillibrand planned to pay $22,500 for a spot on "Criminal Minds" last week. And she was scheduled to air in "The Amazing Race" last night for $20,000.
Tonight, she and Linda McMahon have booked units in "Hawaii Five-O" for $18,000. Multiple candidates have run in "The Good Wife" on WCBS for $18,000. Later this month, Gillibrand has time set aside in "CSI: NY" for $20,000.
On WNBC, Gillibrand has booked a spot in the Oct. 26 "Parenthood" for $22,000. Her spot on "Law & Order: SVU" on Oct. 6 cost $18,000. That was the same amount Cuomo had booked for placement in last Monday's episode of "The Event."
Not surprisingly, the NFL costs much less in New York when the Giants and Jets are not involved. Remarkably, the NBC, CBS and Fox stations have all charged candidates $14,000 per 30 seconds for games -- at least once. On NBC, however, the rate has increased to $22,000.
In college football, Cuomo has booked a spot on the Oct. 30 prime-time game on WABC for $5,500; an afternoon game that day is to cost $4,000 a spot. On WNBC, Notre Dame games have been running candidates $2,500.
In daytime, WABC is getting $3,500 for a spot on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," while WNBC is offering candidates as little as $800 for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." In an ominous sign for the Hallmark Channel, which is now airing "The Martha Stewart Show," spots in August in the program were going for as little as $200 (albeit in repeats).
In late night, McMahon has booked a spot on WNBC's "The Tonight Show" during each episode in October for $1,600 each. Cuomo has booked two spots on "Saturday Night Live" on Oct. 30 for $4,000 each.
If a candidate is paying the "lowest unit rate," how much less is that than what a general advertiser would pay? It's impossible to determine even a rule of thumb.
But one way to gain insight is to consider what interest groups pay to sway public opinion. The issue advocates do not receive the "lowest unit rate," and pay closer to what a general advertiser would.
In one example at WNBC, records show a vast difference. For "Meet the Press" on Oct. 10, Connecticut gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley was given an LUR of $10,000. But Americans Against Food Taxes had a rate of $16,500, while the American Federation of Teachers was to pay $32,750.
Another example: "Oprah" spots on WABC are costing candidates $3,500 now. But last March, the American Beverage Association booked time for a spot at $10,000 -- although others it had on "Oprah" were $5,000.
Some other listed prices for 30-second spots in the New York market this year, in order of program, amount, candidate (or interest group) and date, are:
*"The View"; $3,500; Cuomo; Oct. 18
*"Nightline"; $2,200; Cuomo; Nov. 1
*Barbara Walters' Oscar Special; $22,000; American Beverage Association; March 7, 2010
*"The Mentalist"; $16,000; Cuomo; Oct. 14
*"The Defenders"; $12,000; Cuomo; Oct. 6
*"Late Show with David Letterman"; $1,600; Gillibrand; Oct. 12
*NFL pre-game on Fox; $2,000; McMahon; Oct. 10
*"Bones"; $12,500; Sen. Charles Schumer; Oct. 14
*Baseball All-Star game; $20,000; McMahon; July 13, 2010
*"The Apprentice"; $15,000; McMahon; Oct. 7
*"The Biggest Loser"; $12,000; Gillibrand; Oct. 12
*"The Nate Berkus Show"; $750; Cuomo; Oct. 14
*"Family Guy" (syndication); $800; Cuomo; Oct. 10
*Mets vs. Nationals; $8,000; Cuomo; Oct. 2
*"Maury"; $1,000, Cuomo; Oct. 7