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NBC Gets $2 Million for 30-Second ‘Seinfeld’ Spots

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THE WASHINGTON POST

NBC sold its first commercials Tuesday for the final episode of “Seinfeld,” for $2 million per 30-second ad, smashing the highest price ever paid for air time on a television program.

People familiar with the network’s sales efforts identified the buyers as two movie studios, but NBC officials had no comment on the purchases. Film companies frequently run ads on the popular Thursday night sitcom, which attracts huge numbers of young viewers, on the night before movies typically open in theaters.

Some ad buyers were skeptical that anyone would pony up $2 million when NBC executives floated that price earlier this month. At that rate, air time on the May 14 finale will be 54% more expensive than the previous highest price paid, $1.3 million for 30 seconds on last month’s Super Bowl, also televised by NBC.

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What’s more, the final “Seinfeld” is not expected to match the Super Bowl in terms of ratings. The Green Bay-Denver matchup drew a 44.5 rating, which translated into 133.4 million viewers, according to NBC. The network expects the one-hour “Seinfeld” to attract a 40 rating, which is close to double the program’s average rating during the 1997-98 TV season.

But advertising executives said Nielsen numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. Among other factors, the price of commercial time is being driven up by a strong economy, the sitcom about four New Yorkers is popular among demographically desirable urban audiences, and there is a scarcity of available commercial slots on “Seinfeld” compared with the Super Bowl.

The last “Seinfeld” will have 10 minutes of national ads, compared with nearly an hour’s worth during the football game. (A one-hour network series such as “ER” usually contains nine minutes of national advertising.)

“This is an event buy,” said Bill Croasdale of Western International Media, a Los Angeles-based media-buying company. “You throw the usual measures out the window when you buy this. A lot of people who hardly ever watch this show are going to tune in to watch it.”

At $2 million per ad, NBC would generate $40 million from the program, plus millions more from local ads sold by its 12 owned-and-operated stations.

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