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Air Time Academy

Secrets for Advertising Success

Can I Afford A TV Campaign?

Television is the AWARENESS medium. Like all forms of advertising, TV works through REPETITION. When you repeat your message to your customer, they become familiar with you. When they're familiar with you, they will be comfortable buying your products or services.

| Budgeting | (EXAMPLES - CHART) |
| How the Experts Make a Media Buy |
| The Secret to Surviving Slow Economic Times is... |

Want the Current Rates for a Specific Network or Location?

If you need exact rates for a particular market, network, or TV show, try our friends at the TVAdRateStore.com. You can order an actual schedule, or just get rate information for a network, daypart or show. Because media research is a custom, time intensive process, there is a small fee for the service, payable via PayPal or credit card.

How The Experts Determine Media Budgets

It's easier than you might think. Your media buy should be tailored to your needs and how much you can afford. To calculate a budget for your TV advertising follow these steps:

1.) Budget. Calculate your business's gross monthly income. Plan to spend at least 5-15% of your gross income for your campaign.

Example: For a $50,000 monthly gross revenue, you would budget $2500 to $7500 per month for air time. Most campaigns last several months, so be sure the budget is comfortable month after month.

First time tip: Don't expect the first month's sales to cover the next month's ad budget. Reputation wins through repetition. Be bold - and patient!

2.) Location. Consider how large an area you need to cover. Do you want to reach customers local to you (neighborhood, city, ZIP code?), or in a general region (Chicagoland, San Fernando Valley?), or nationwide?

Internet businesses, multi-state companies, and those with customers across the country prefer to advertise nationwide. Local retailers, professional services such as attorneys and accountants typically advertise on local networks in the surrounding area.

3.) Demographics. Imagine the kind of customer you want to reach - age, income, interests, and other characteristics. Sports fans or new car shoppers? Parents, grandparents, new home owners? Some find this the trickiest part of the equation -- and it's where we can help you most! Demographics help determine the best channels and times for airing.

How many airings can I buy, who sees my ad?

Air time rates vary wildly. Wildly! Seriously, we've seen rates from $1 to $35,000 per airing or higher (don't forget the famous $2.5M per airing Superbowl time slot).

Each TV channel has a matrix of rates for every time of day, every show, and every day of the week. There's also a rate matrix for local or national airings for each channel. A local cable TV provider, which offers hundreds of channels, has a matrix that includes all rates for each and every channel and time of day. Rates depend also on time of day, show popularity, and availability.

Take heart. There are affordable media buys out there to suit just about any business budget.

See our Examples for recommendations to suit many typical small to medium businesses.

TV airings supply and demandSupply and Demand:

Air time is like a commodity. It's a little bit like buying lettuce at the grocery store. The price goes up and down, depending on the time of year, what kind you get, how much you get -- generally, good old supply and demand.

If the network or show is popular, then demand for time slots goes up and availability goes down, pushing prices higher. If fewer people watch the show or network, demand goes down, allowing prices to go lower.

RATE CARDS: We Don't Offer a set "Rate Card" - here's why:

  • Rates are set - and changed - by the networks.
  • Every network, day part and show is different. Literally millions of combinations.
  • The rates change often, and are set independently by each of the thousands of networks and TV stations.
  • There is no universal TV airtime rate chart. Each network, cable system, and local affiliate has its own.

The Networks set their own rates, which change on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis, and there are hundreds of TV networks in each of the hundreds of markets across the USA. That's why we don't have a set "rate card." It would be way too much information, and you have better things to do than sort through it.

EWWW!!! - STALE RATES!!!  If you find air time rates posted on the web, be very afraid. If you are buying air time via an online form, and you're choosing airings by price, ask yourself: how do they determine these rates? Often, the airings are not even available at the quoted rate - and you may find out only after you've failed to get on the air.

We've scheduled airings on real cable networks like CNN, MTV, ESPN, all your favorites and many more, and on major broadcast stations (like NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, etc.). Let the media experts at Cheap TV Spots® help you understand air time, and buy wisely.

Examples: Air Time Minimal Spending -- Rules of Thumb

NOTE: THE AMOUNTS BELOW ARE ONLY EXAMPLES.  This is NOT a "price list" or "rate quote."  This chart is for budgeting purposes only and should not be considered exact pricing. These are examples of what other advertisers in your business sector are spending, so you can budget for your own campaign.

The table below shows the minimum you should typically spend per month for a 2-3 month, budget-savvy campaign. Your actual advertising expenditure will vary by location and goals. For faster results, make a larger air time buy. TV airing is one occasion where more really is more. No kidding.

Your Business

Product or Service

Typical Minimum Air Time Buy
per Month

Marketing Goal

Retail shop, 1 location

(except restaurants.
See below.)

automotive repair, specialty store, single franchisee

$1,500-$2,500 (for local area cable TV such as CNN, Home & Garden TV, etc.)

$2,000-5,000 (for a local broadcast station like NBC, ABC, CBS, etc.)

Local recognition, advertise ongoing specials, and increase business.

Plan to be on the air for at least 3 months to maximize effectiveness.

Local restaurant 1 or more locations family style dinners, take-out, fine dining, etc.

$2,500-$5,000 (for local cable TV) - Average: $3,000

$4,000-$6,000 (for broadcast)

The restaurant business is highly competitive. Hit hard to get noticed and develop a following.
Product manufacturer or distributor market test of new product

$10,000 - $25,000 per market (for concentrated airings in one selected test market, preferably at least 100K cable TV viewers)

Can also be tested nationwide on satellite.

Determine if product demand exists in the market test area by number of calls. Actual orders and up-sells depend on the activities of the call center.

Recommended length of test: 6-8 weeks.

Direct Response Advertiser - LOCAL


Consumer product or service, not sold in stores (yet).
"1-800" or website sales
Local Sales (ongoing): $3,000 for airing on cable TV per each test market. $6000-10,000 for local broadcast Sales: Generate customer calls to call/fulfillment center.
Local Market Test: $5,000 for cable TV airings in one local market, at least 100K viewers. Market Test: Determine level of product demand in a specific geographic region or demographic. Recommended length of test: 6-8 weeks.
Direct Response Advertiser - NATIONAL Consumer product or service, examples: Snuggie, Sham-Wow, Oxy-Clean. "1-800" or website sales

National Sales (ongoing): $10,000 - $20,000 for nationwide satellite or cable TV. Satellite packages available.

Sales: Generate customer calls to call center or fulfillment center. Actual orders and up-sells are responsibility of call center.

National Market Test: $10,000-$25,000 Can be tested efficiently nationwide on satellite or via nationwide cable. Can be tested on local broadcast if nationwide testing is not an option. Market Test: Determine where product demand exists nationwide. Actual orders and up-sells are responsibility of call center. Recommended length of test: 6-8 weeks.


Looking for Effective TV Air Time?

Money spent reaching the wrong customer only increases your costs without adding new customers.

Air Time Packages: Beware the BAG O' SPOTS

Low-ball Media Buyers sometimes offer a "package" where X-dollars gets you an unbelievably large number of "unused" or "remnant" airings. The trouble is what's in the dangerous Bag O' Spots. It's just a bunch of throw-away spots that air at undesirable times, on networks with hardly any viewers.

The package conceals a collection of undesirable junk spots, or airings so scattered across different channels that it's impossible for the same person to see your ad twice. Unless you have a product that appeals to random insomniacs who watch the Dust Channel, don't buy the "Bag O' Spots."

Myth: Buy in Bulk... and Save???

Some agencies claim to buy air time in bulk for resale to you. This doesn't happen. Think about it. In order to have the right schedule on tap, the agency would have to buy up a huge chunk of airings in every single market, waiting for you to need it. Then what happens when the pre-purchased time slot passes? Who has that kind of money to waste?

At best, what they may actually be doing is lumping your order with several other orders and airing all of the different commercials in a round robin rotation on whatever network. Sure, your ad may pop up randomly in the rotation (like a tennis shoe in the dryer), but it'll be on some network that isn't right for your product.

Air time rates depend on:

  • LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION - where you go on the air (a city, a region, the entire U.S.?)
  • TIME OF DAY- from a fixed prime time slot (the most expensive) to overnight airing (the cheapest)
  • NETWORK OR SHOW- the most popular ones, as determined by Nielsen Ratings and other ratings systems, usually cost the most
  • AUDIENCE - income level, interests, age, sex, race
  • AVAILABILITY - whether there are open time slots available. Fewer openings mean higher rates!

Air Time Prices Change Often - Using massive computers (or at least we imagine that's what they use), the networks calculate and recalculate their air time prices continually, adjusting for the ever-changing popularity of shows and channels. Even they do not know their prices, off hand -- they use databases to track their hundreds of times and shows, assigning prices based on supply and demand, and whatever they feel they can get away with.

How to Save Money on Air Time

You have two basic choices for scheduling your air time:

* do it yourself,

* or hire an agency.

It's up to you, as the advertiser. After all, it's your money.  Keep in mind that the rate you receive for airings will be the same, regardless. It's one area where DIY isn't always cheaper.

Television is an "awareness" medium.

Exposure creates awareness. Awareness inspires action.

In general, it takes several viewings of your commercial (typically at least 8 viewings) to register your message in the customer's mind. With a minimal schedule, it takes about 3 months to build sufficient awareness to inspire action. With a combination of more frequent and more targeted airings, customers reach the key level of awareness much more rapidly, and take action sooner.

Don't make these common mistakes:

"I want my ad to air on my favorite network (show)." - Your customer's favorite show may not be your favorite. Put yourself in their shoes.

"My customer is 'everybody'." - Unlikely. Even Starbucks® and Disney® know that there are people who never buy their products, and who are not cost-effective to pursue.

"I just want the very cheapest spots, and it doesn't really matter when or where they actually go on the air." - An unusually low-cost airing could be a red flag that the network isn't getting viewers.

"I have a limited budget, so I want to buy just one airing on a really popular show." - One airing is definitely not enough to gain customer traction. A limited budget is better spent on several well chosen, lower cost airings.

Choosing TV Air Time - The medium really IS the message. Where and when your TV spot is shown is just as important as what your commercial says. Too often, advertisers waste valuable ad dollars by choosing networks and times based on too little information, by picking sentimental favorites, or by buying based on sheer price, without thinking about who will see their TV spots. Even a carefully crafted commercial intended for Medicare recipients will probably not bring in business if it winds up on, say, a teen-oriented music channel.

What Kind of Business Are You? Read On:

Start-up Businesses - You need new customers to survive. You'll need to do more marketing than an older, established business, which has previous customers, general visibility, and trust in the community. Remember, you're trying to make your mark!

Established Businesses - Well-established businesses that rely on repeat business from existing customers can spend less than a business that needs new customers to survive, such as a start-up, or a business that offers products or services that are typically a one-time purchase.

Heavy Competition - No matter what business you're in, you'll need to spend as much as other businesses like yours are spending. You may even need to spend more, if there is lots of competition. Restaurants, for example, need to spend more than other single-location businesses because of the highly competitive restaurant industry.

Low Margins - If you have a small profit margin and rely on high sales volume, you need to spend more on marketing than a business that gains a high profit margin from a small number of sales. Why? You need to attract more individual customers. This is especially true in competitive business sectors where price is the main selling point.  Why do you think car dealers advertise so much?


If you're like many small or start-up businesses, you may not have a clear picture of your marketing and advertising budget. Think of your marketing budget as a percentage of total revenues. Very generally speaking, in an "up" market, when business is booming, an average business can expect to spend 5% of revenues on marketing. In a "flat," or "down" market, when business is slow, expect to spend 10-25% of revenues.

Spend MORE during slow times? YES!

Studies show that businesses who continue to advertise during a recession tend to recover THREE TIMES AS FAST as businesses who reduce or stop advertising during that period. Also, their existing customers tend to remain loyal through the down period, increasing their spending when the economy picks up again.

Why more?

First, if your revenues are down, your usual marketing costs represent a larger percentage of that revenue. Second, you will want to try to catch up to previous sales levels, and that will take more advertising.

Let's look at a truly affordable TV ad campaign. Ms. Smith, owner of a standalone auto body repair shop with one location, wishes to promote her services within her county, especially within just a few miles of the shop. She has already purchased a Cheap TV Spots® brand television commercial, so she is ready to go on the air. Certain cable networks in her area give her the best air time (greatest target audience for the lowest cost). Ms. Smith's sales are around $41,000/month. Since she knows there's lots of competition, she decides to budget $4,100 (10%) per month for television airings. Over the course of several months, her schedule will provide Ms. Smith with solid coverage in front of her most desired customers.

CONTACT US for a no-pressure discussion of your TV advertising project. No commissioned salespeople!  :-)

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