Cable News Ad Prices Stable Amid Pandemic, Viewership Soars

The growth of COVID-19 TV news content has come with higher overall TV news viewership and slightly higher “scatter” overall advertising pricing for cable TV news content over the most recent three-month period.

Overall, Fox News posted the best results -- with $17,879 for an average 30-second commercial -- while MSNBC came in at $11,078 and CNN was at $10,233, according to SQAD, the TV advertising pricing data company.

For the previous seven-week period (the week of Jan. 10 through the week of Feb. 21), Fox News came in at $18,676, followed by MSNBC at $12,021 and CNN with $6,722.

On average over the 13-week period, CNN and MSNBC trended slightly higher scatter pricing versus the previous TV news period (January and February), with Fox News slightly down.

Scatter TV advertising deals are the near-term, quarter-by-quarter buying of national TV commercial inventory.



SQAD says Fox News Channel rose to $16,158 for the week of Feb. 28 to a high of $25,849 (week of April 24) before sinking back to $16,900 (week of May 22).

“Fox News [Channel] unit costs show considerable volatility compared to CNN and MSNBC,” says a SQAD report.

MSNBC averaged $9,872 for a 30-second spot on Feb. 28, rising to a high of $13,329 (March 6), ending with $10,819 (May 22). CNN was at $8,809 (February 28) rising to a high in the last week of the period (May 22) to $12,981.

All this comes as cable TV news networks continue to show spikes in viewership due to COVID-19 pandemic news reporting --- and more recently from the civil unrest in more than a dozen major cities following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In prime time, for the month of May, Fox News was up 44% to 3.4 million prime-time viewers versus May 2019. MSNBC was 16% higher to 1.9 million, with CNN witnessing the highest rise -- more than double (117%) -- to 1.7 million prime-time viewers.

The results for total day ratings were similar, with Fox News sharply up 40% to 1.9 million; MSNBC climbing 27%, to 1.2 million and CNN again doubling its number versus a year ago (98%) -- to 1.1 million.

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