While the television industry has fractured and many networks shows no longer command the audiences that were once common for Walt Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC, Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) NBC, and CBS (NYSE:CBS), all still have some big hits.
There are shows which still draw a mass audience, the kind of programs people have to watch live. When the viewing audience watches live, of course, that's worth more to advertisers because they are more likely to see the commercials than if they watch on demand or on a DVR later.
Of the top ten programs which commanded the most per ad in the 2016-17 TV season, according to AdAge three are sports. That makes sense because in this day and age, when the internet and social media are only as far away as our phone, it has become next-to-impossible to not learn the score of a game you hoped to save for later. The other seven are watercooler shows -- programs that if you don't watch live, you will miss out on the conversation as people talk about them at work the next day.
10. Grey's Anatomy
Call the Shonda Rhimes' TV series the comeback story of the year, as it gained 23% per 30-second ad, from $157,609 in the 2015-16 season to $193,210 in 2016-17. That's still well down from its peak in 2007-08 when the show got $400,000 for 30 seconds, but it's still impressive for a show which has been on the air for so long.
9. The Voice (Tuesday)
Comcast's NBC actually beats the other three major networks by having five entries in the top. The Voice, its reality singing competition, actually airs on consecutive nights with Tuesday being the results show. That program, where viewers learn which competitors are moving on and which are going home, brings in $202,600 per 30-second spot.
8. The Voice (Monday)
The Monday edition of The Voice does slightly better than the Tuesday one, bringing in $214,079 for a 30-second ad. That's down from $240,502 in the 2015-16 season, but the reality show has shown surprising longevity for NBC.
7. Modern Family
Sitcoms rarely crack through to the top ten, but Modern Family has been a huge hit since it first aired. The ABC show, which features multiple generations, brought in $224,571 for a 30-second ad in 2016-17. That's the second-most for the category and significantly more than the next-highest performing sitcom on the list, FOX's (NASDAQ:FOX) The Simpsons which took an a still-impressive $161,633 per 30-second ad in 2016-17.
6. This Is Us
This the lone new show on this list. NBC's This Is Us came from nowhere to command $272,000 for a 30-second ad. That's nearly unprecedented, but the show's unique time-shifted perspective and its tear-jerker story lines built the program quickly through word-of-mouth.
5. Big Bang Theory
When it first started Big Bang Theory seemed like a gimmick that would burn out quickly. A talented cast, however, turned the CBS sitcom into a show that's often the highest-rated scripted program on television. The comedy brought in $289,136 per 30-second ad in 2016-17, making it the second-highest non-sports program.
Even though Empire slipped in the ratings a bit this past season, it still raked in the cash for FOX. The soap opera/drama took in $437,100 per 30-second ad making it by far the most-valuable scripted show on television.
3. Thursday Night Football (NBC)
The National Football League (NFL) splits its Thursday night package between NBC and CBS. The Peacock Network's slate of games brought in $485,695 for a 30-second ad while also giving the network a valuable platform to use to promote its other shows.
2. Thursday Night Football (CBS)
It's probably not surprising that the CBS version of Thursday Night Football came in just ahead of NBC's version. These games brought in slightly more money at $522,910 per 30-second spot, which may well be a testament to the CBS ad department's ability to sell as well as some luck with scheduling.
1. Sunday Night Football
The NFL dominates this list because football games can't really be time-shifted. If you skip the game, it's almost certain you will hear the results of it the next morning before you get a chance to watch. As the premier game of the week, NBC's Sunday Night Football takes in an astounding $673,664 per 30-second ad, easily placing it on top of this list.