Farewell to 4A's TV Production Cost Survey

January 29, 2014

By Bill Duggan

In a sign of the times, the 4A's just recently announced that they will no longer publish their "Television Production Cost Survey." The survey originated in 1987 and the last published report represented the twenty-fifth year of this continuing project.

For those twenty-five years, the report provided the industry with a method of benchmarking the industry average cost of producing television commercials, providing data including:  

  • The average cost of a 30-second commercial
  • Costs by commercial type, e.g., vignettes, animation, table top
  • Costs by product category, e.g., automotive, packaged goods, retail
  • Editorial and post-production costs
  • Music costs
    Average Cost
:30 Commercial
  2011 $354,000
  2010 $324,000
  2009 $323,000
  2008 $342,000
  2007 $361,000
  2006 $335,000
  2005 $381,000
  2004 $385,000
  2003 $372,000
  2002 $358,000
  2001 $358,000

According to the last published report – the 2011 Television Production Cost Survey – the average cost of a 30-second commercial was $354,000.

But today's super-fragmented, content-demanding media environment has made the report obsolete. Who shoots just a 30-second commercial (alone) anymore? And what is a "commercial" anyway?

Content is king and marketers are producing all sorts of video content. For web sites, for online video, for digital place-based advertising, and, of course, television. The traditional 30-second commercial was largely a one-time event for most marketers. But today, many marketers are producing episodic videos, that is, a series, and distributing them on various platforms – paid, owned, and earned. And marketers and their agency partners have gotten smarter over the years and learned to produce video content more efficiently. It's interesting that the average cost of a 30-second commercial in 2011 was actually lower than it was in 2001! See the adjacent chart, from the 4A's reports over the years.

So farewell to the 4A's Television Production Cost Survey. But it's a new era.

Thanks to Radio & Television Business Report for first publishing this blog.

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