ABC packed roughly 107 spots — or more than 45 minutes of commercial and promotional time — into the two-and-a-half-hour Lost series finale, according to our (very unscientific but pretty reliable) count. Just when the finale would unveil a major plot point, a break would occur featuring anywhere from five to 11 ads and/or sneak peeks for fall shows on ABC. Granted, some of the spots were extremely clever (Target used images of the island’s smoke monster to peddle fire detectors) but numerous, nonetheless.
Though it can (and will) vary depending upon the circumstance, a network typically runs anywhere from 18 to 21 spots — or roughly 9 to 10.5 minutes of commercial time — per hour to accommodate 44 minutes of content (the rest of the time goes to network promos and local ads). Within the first hour of last night’s finale, it appeared that ABC squeezed in roughly 37 ads, along with seven promos for ABC and local programming. HBO got in on the fun later in the broadcast by buying a spot to promote the upcoming season of True Blood. Ad time was also gobbled up by the likes of Home Depot and the iPad.
It’s hardly a surprise that ABC would want to make hay out of the much-anticipated finale: In March, Ad Age reported that the network was expected to charge around $900,000 per 30-second spot during the Lost series ender. A 30-second Lost ad was only selling for a reported $213,000 at the start of the season. Apparently, advertisers are willing to pay a premium in programs with a rabid fan base, according to the article.
“I expected there would be a significant amount of commercials in Lost,” concedes Bill Carroll of Katz TV Group, a media buying firm. “It didn’t seem like any more than you are seeing in primetime these days. Does there appear to be more commercials on TV? Yeah. Obviously, ABC was able to put in more in the two-and-a-half-hour broadcast.”