TV Commercial Advertisers made news the week of October 2, 1998

NOT AD-ING UP No matter which net becomes the Nielsen heavyweight this year, one thing’s for sure: The Big Four will end up a little lighter in the wallet. Advertisers, it seems, aren’t shelling out quite as much for commericals as they used to.

Figuring out ad rates for a given show is anything but an exact science. Prices vary depending on the advertiser, the shows bought (needless to say, The WB’s The Army Show isn’t going to pull in as many dollars as NBC’s ER), the size of the buy, and the timing of the deal. Advertisers don’t buy individual programs, they buy packages, and bigger agencies tend to get better deals than the smaller shops.

That said, an informal survey of media buyers proves that not every piece of ”art” goes up in value with age.

Check out Thursday night at NBC: Thirty-second commericals for ER are said to be costing between $525,000 and $540,000, while last year’s figure was closer to $550,000. This season’s Friends spots run around $385,000-$400,000, just under last year’s $400,000-plus take. The biggest drop-off for the Peacock is during the Seinfeld-less time slot of 9 p.m. Although replacement Frasier is expected to grab as much as $450,000 per spot (a healthy increase over its Tuesday average of more than $200,000), that’s nowhere near the almost $600,000 Jerry & Co. commanded in their final go-round.

Over at ABC, aging shows are clearly going to hurt the bottom line. Home Improvement is expected to average about $200,000 per ad in its new 8 p.m. time slot, a steep slide from last year’s $275,000 average at 9 p.m. The cost of an ad during NYPD Blue, which will lose star Jimmy Smits early on, has dropped to $200,000, compared with $240,000 last season.

Just how serious are CBS’ demographic problems? Consider the ad rates for Everybody Loves Raymond. Regarded as the net’s strongest comedy and a critical fave, it will get $120,000 per spot in its new 9 p.m. slot against Monday Night Football and the younger-skewing Ally McBeal.

Speaking of Ally, which got off to a strong start two weeks ago, commericals could go for as much as $250,000 per spot, more than double what Fox reaped at the start of last season. Those are numbers even Ally’s greedy Richard Fish would appreciate.