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Cable News Ad Costs Change Significantly in First Half of 2018

Shifting political climate helps MSNBC see 129% growth in advertising prices against cable news competitors, says SQAD’s cost data

According to data released by SQAD LLC – an advertising research, analytics, and media planning software company – the three major U.S. cable news networks have experienced significant shifts in advertiser investment during the first half of 2018, likely driven by changing political landscapes and audience viewership trends.

The Data Report for Cable News Networks analyzes advertiser transaction data from cable news commercial buys in the scatter market – specifically CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC – for the first half of 2018 during the Morning and Primetime dayparts. According to the report, Fox News held the lead in average unit costs in the Primetime block at the beginning of the year, but MSNBC began making significant market gains and edged out Fox News in March for the top spot in scatter ad costs. By June, MSNBC’s prices had skyrocketed, putting it ahead of CNN by 30% and Fox News by 26%.

“We researched scatter ad costs to get a better idea of real-time market shifts – something we can’t see in the negotiated rates from upfront buys as they’re isolated from varying market trends and social volatility,” says Dan Klar, SQAD’s VP of Product Development for MediaCosts: National. “In analyzing the two dayparts, we found the three networks experienced substantial changes in scatter ad costs over the course of the six months. From January to June in the Morning block, we see a considerable shift for CNN with a drop of 45%, while in the Primetime block, MSNBC saw a massive spike of 129%.”

Our Cost Volatility Score really shows how these oscillating ad costs are affecting the market’s overall advertiser engagement.

-Marc Krigsman, CEO of SQAD

In addition to examining the fluctuations in scatter ad costs from January through June 2018, the Data Team also analyzed the overall volatility of each network by measuring the change in month-over-month percentage growth/loss of average ad costs on each network. Tracking the SQAD Cost Volatility Score helps put each network on an even playing field and view their overall gains and losses in market impact over time.

“Our Cost Volatility Score really shows how these oscillating ad costs are affecting the market’s overall advertiser engagement,” says SQAD CEO, Marc Krigsman. “In both the Morning and Primetime dayparts, we see MSBNC experiencing massive positive changes to its market impact when compared to where they started off the year. Specifically, the network ended with a Volatility Score of +42.2 in the Morning and +120 during Primetime. Meanwhile, volatility changes for CNN and Fox News were notably less dramatic and essentially ended around where they started.”

For the Morning daypart, the Volatility Score shows CNN down -6.2 since January, while Fox News saw a modest gain of 9.4 as of June. The SQAD report shows that volatility changes are more indicative of the shifting market impact when reviewing the Primetime block, where CNN ended June with a +33.5 and Fox News with a +24.6 – both are dwarfed by MSNBC at +120).

The full report is available on SQAD’s website: Data Report: Cable News Networks


SQAD LLC has been an industry leader for more than four decades, processing more than $1 trillion in real transaction ad costs from advertising housekeeping system. Their MediaCosts data includes national broadcast, cable, and syndicated television, as well as local broadcast, cable, and Hispanic TV, radio, and out-of-home advertising. They also provide audience analytics research tools for Nielsen data through SQAD MediaLogic, and provide advertisers and agencies the mission-critical media planning software, MediaTools – a robust and flexible end-to-end media planning solution. Learn more at www.sqad.com.

By |August 17th, 2018|News Room, Press Releases|0 Comments

MSNBC, CNN Make Scatter Pricing Gains, Fox Still Tops In Viewing

By: Wayne Friedman
August 3, 2018

Fox News Channel still commands the top spot in terms of viewership, with rising ad revenue, but MSNBC and CNN have been making sharper 30-second commercial pricing gains in the first half of this year.

In that time, MSNBC has seen rocketing price hikes for prime-time programming — up 129% to now average $13,550 for a 30-second commercial in June. It was $5,927 in January.

CNN was 31% higher to $9,451 during the January-to-June period (from $7,192), while Fox rose 22% to $10,095 (from $8,285.)

The data is courtesy of SQAD, a media cost data/ad-planning company, which analyzed scatter advertising deals — near-term, month-by-month, TV advertising deals…

Read more at: MediaPost.

By |August 6th, 2018|In The News, News Room|0 Comments

DATA REPORT: Cable News Networks, January-June 2018

In today’s volatile news cycles, cable news networks are constantly vying for the top spot in viewership and advertising dollars by delivering breaking news, providing historical analysis, and hosting spirited debate panels. The shifting political climate has begun to play a major role in the viewership and revenue capabilities of these networks.

To see the performance trends in cable news networks, the SQAD Data Team pulled scatter costs from the MediaCosts: National database for CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from the first six months of 2018. The team focused on scatter pricing to better analyze reactionary pricing volatility based on changing events, rather than the steady long-term investments made in the upfront buying season.

This report starts with a pure unit cost analysis of the networks from January 2018 through June 2018 for the Morning and Primetime dayparts. The second part of this report dives into a Cost Volatility Score analysis, for the same two dayparts.




Unit Cost Month/Month
% Change
Unit Cost Month/Month
% Change
Unit Cost Month/Month
% Change
JAN $2,045 $3,686 $2,246
FEB $1,405 -31.3% $3,817 3.6% $2,384 6.1%
MAR $2,297 63.5% $4,374 14.6% $2,522 5.8%
APR $1,531 -33.3% $3,640 -16.8% $3,991 58.2%
MAY $2,207 44.2% $3,868 6.3% $3,332 -16.5%
JUN $1,121 -49.2% $3,937 1.8% $2,950 -11.5%


  • At the beginning of the year, Fox News held the highest scatter unit cost for the Morning block, with an average of $3,686 for the month of January. CNN trailed behind by 45% and MSNBC by 40%.
  • Of the three networks, MSNBC experienced the most significant increase in scatter ad costs over the course of the six months. By June, costs on the network averaged $2,950, a 31% spike from January.
  • From January to June, ad costs on:
    • CNN dropped 45%
    • Fox News increased 7%
    • MSNBC jumped 31%
  • Although Fox News hit a high of $4,374 in March, it did not recover to that rate for the rest of Q2 2018.
  • MSNBC hit its highest point of $3,991 in April (taking the top spot from Fox News for the first time since the beginning of the year) but did not maintain that unit cost for the rest of Q2.
  • Going into the new quarter from March to April, average ad costs fell 17% on Fox News and 33% on CNN, while rising 58% for MSNBC.




Unit Cost Month/Month
% Change
Unit Cost Month/Month
% Change
Unit Cost Month/Month
% Change
JAN $7,192 $8,285 $5,927
FEB $7,384 2.7% $7,679 -7.3% $5,666 -4.4%
MAR $9,327 26.3% $8,119 5.7% $11,569 104.2%
APR $11,440 22.7% $10,739 32.3% $11,126 -3.8%
MAY $10,198 -10.9% $10,208 -4.9% $10,308 -7.4%
JUN $9,451 -7.3% $10,095 -1.1% $13,550 31.5%


  • At the start of the year, Fox News held the spot for highest Primetime scatter ad costs, averaging $8,285 in January – 13% higher than CNN and 29% higher than MSNBC.
  • For the month of April, 2018 CNN briefly took the top spot for scatter unit costs, edging out MSNBC by 3% and Fox News by 6%.
  • From January to June, MSNBC prices saw the largest unit cost jump of the three networks, skyrocketing 129% and averaging $13,550 in June – 30% higher than CNN and 26% higher than Fox News.
  • While ad prices oscillated throughout the first six months of this year, all three networks saw an overall increase from January to June. Comparing January to June, prices on:
    • CNN rose 31%
    • Fox News increased 22%
    • MSNBC more than doubled, jumping 129%


While looking purely at unit costs can provide insight into the revenue power of a given network, there is more to be said regarding the transformation of the cable news landscape when we review the cost volatility during the same six month period. Analyzing the three cable news networks from their starting point in January 2018 and calculating the percentage differential month-to-month shows the real magnitude of the unit cost shifts over time.

To calculate the SQAD Cost Volatility Score, we measured the change in growth/loss each network experiences month-to-month. The Score allows us to equalize the unit cost changes in order to see a larger trend in the networks’ market impact over time.


JAN 0.0 0.0 0.0
FEB -31.3 3.6 6.1
MAR 32.2 18.1 11.9
APR -1.2 1.4 70.2
MAY 43.0 7.6 53.7
JUN -6.2 9.4 42.2


  • Based on volatility in the Morning daypart, Fox News maintained their average market position, gaining +9.4 volatility points from January to June.
  • While CNN had a seemingly unstable market fluctuation, when the change in growth is equalized, it is only down 6.2 points from their starting position in January 2018.
  • The growth in market strength is best illustrated in MSNBC’s volatility scores as it ended the six-month period with +42.2 points, reaching a peak of +70.2 points in April 2018.
  • For Fox News, the market gains from March 2018 (when it had a volatility score of +18.1) were counteracted by the equally steep 16.7 point drop into April, bringing it down to a volatility score of +1.4.



JAN 0.0 0.0 0.0
FEB 2.7 -7.3 -4.4
MAR 29.0 -1.6 99.8
APR 51.6 30.7 96.0
MAY 40.8 25.7 88.6
JUN 33.5 24.6 120.0


  • In the first six months of 2018, all three cable news networks increased in market value.
  • Initial drops in Q1 2018 for Fox News were recovered in Q2, allowing the network to rebound to a +24.6 volatility score in June.
  • CNN maintained an overall positive volatility index for the entire six month period, ending June 2018 at a +33.5.
  • MSNBC experienced the most significant market strength gains overall, ending June 2018 with a commanding +120 volatility score.
By |July 30th, 2018|SQAD Data Reports|0 Comments

5 Game Changers Every Advertiser Must Know in July 2018

SQAD POD: 5 Game Changers Every Advertiser Should Know – July 2018

Industry news and insights podcast curated from the world of advertising and marketing trends.

We’ve hit the peak of summer with all the crowded beaches, backyard barbecues, and block parties. Now with the sound of ice cream trucks filling the air, there’s still a lot of buzz in the advertising world. For the month of July, we’re talking about AT&T’s advertising strategies, Facebook and transparency, HQ Trivia, text message advertising, and giving passive billboards true analytics.

1. AT&T’s Advertising Ambitions

It looks like AT&T is not letting the pending Justice Department challenge against its Time Warner acquisition stop its relentless push for advertising dominance. Assuming they can officially push the Time Warner acquisition through, AT&T plans to transform HBO into a toe-to-toe competitor for the king of streaming, Netflix. It would be able to use the data that comes with HBO to learn more about audience behavior, and in turn, create advertising services to bring in even more revenue. Not long after it received approval to purchase Time Warner – which is now being appealed – the telecom giant announced its acquisition of AppNexus, which operates digital advertising services and software. AT&T’s acquisition strategy is starting to come into full view as it looks to leverage technology and content for greater advertising opportunities. Its ace-in-the-hole against Google and Facebook may be the AppNexus acquisition, as it may super-charge their capabilities in advanced television advertising.

2. Facebook in the Age of Transparency

We have found ourselves standing at the cusp of a new revolution. Digital ad transparency is gaining ground and brands are coming under fire as consumers and government agencies demand answers for online data collection. With new laws like the GDPR (as well as new proposals from states like California) coming into effect, ad tech firms are being held accountable for the part they are playing in the collection and monetization of personal information managed by their technology. Thanks to this new scrutiny, Facebook is becoming the poster child for the new era of transparency. Initially, Facebook only required full disclosure for political ads – which would be archived for seven years and be publicly accessible – but now, it is requiring full disclosure for allbrands. Anyone advertising on Facebook must disclose who is behind the content and allow users to see all the ads they are running on the platform network, which includes Instagram and Messenger. While consumer groups may be applauding the transparency, advertisers have a reason to be alarmed as competitors will have a centralized source to review all the ads being run at a given time. Will consumers really find it useful to review the ongoing ads of advertisers and agencies? Will agencies be inadvertently disclosing their client lists and strategies if they advertise on Facebook? Time will tell how this new world of transparency will reshape the world of digital advertising.

3. HQ Trivia Becomes “Must See” Digital Programming

HQ Trivia took Apple iPhones by storm last fall to become a viral sensation. What began as a mid-afternoon distraction for many grew to be “must see” experience over the course of a few months – with the app racking up 1.7 million players at its peak in March when it partnered with Nike during its 20-minute broadcast. The live trivia game is live-streamed through the app every day at a set time, and users partake in the experience by answering questions in real-time with the promise of cash prizes. HQ has recently stepped up its games by offering more than just cash rewards. For example, the Nike partnership came with the incentive of exclusive sneakers; and another episode featuring judges from “The Voice” came with a $50,000 prize and a trip to the show’s finale. HQ has proven itself to be more than just a viral game – it’s reinventing traditional appointment TV for the era of time-shifting DVR programming. The app’s evolution to partner with brands on sponsored content creates a win-win situation, while redefining how mobile devices can be used to engage consumers. Bringing people together into a real-time event with real-time advertisements is a throwback to the age of captive audiences and shared viewing experiences. This is an exciting time to see how other innovators will remix this idea into new engaging strategies and advertising opportunities.

4. Advertising Gets Even More Personal

The advertising industry is constantly pushing the creative boundaries of marketing, refining the machine for better ways to reach potential customers. That’s what Steve Brown and Leonard Butterman had in mind when they started brainstorming an innovative strategy to disrupt mobile advertising. From their experience as fathers, they noticed that their kids were constantly on their phones, communicating though their digital devices even when they were physically sitting next to each other. Thus, the question arose: Why not tap into a currently ad-free space for the next generation of advertising – text messages? And that is how SlamAds was born. SlamAds would appear within the body of a text message, and would be generated based on the relevance to a given conversation. Suppose you were a SlamAd user talking about pizza – a link would pop up at the bottom of your text message for, as an example, a 10% off voucher for Domino’s Pizza that you would send to the receiver of your message. The incentive is simple. The sender gets paid for allowing the ad to be embedded into the text. Users can cash out anytime in the form of gift cards, contribute to a 529 plan for college tuition, or even donate to charity. There are still a lot of questions about privacy, permissions, and revenue, but the innovation of SlamAds places consumers at the center of the ad experience and has the potential to transform the mobile advertising world, bringing ads into even more intimate spaces.

5. What the EU Fine Means for Google

The day of reckoning has come for Google’s anti-competitive practices in Europe as EU antitrust regulators bring the hammer down with a hefty $5.1 billion fine. The fine comes from the allegation that Google forces Android device makers to squeeze out other search engines by strong-arming manufacturers to pre-install the Chrome browser and Google search, or risk losing access to the Google Play store, the central hub for all apps for the OS. This suit comes a year after Google was fined for prioritizing shopping search results to favor their own products and services – giving themselves an unfair advantage over other companies offering similar products. Now, having a commanding hold of more than 90% of the search market, 85% of mobile phones, and roughly 60 percent of browser market share, Google’s manipulation of the playing field was bound to catch the attention of regulators. Google will challenge the fines, but will also probably modify their practices to avoid future scrutiny. This can only be good news for competitors looking to break into Google’s stronghold.

By |July 24th, 2018|Game Changers|0 Comments

World Cup final ratings flop for Fox

By: Anna Nicolaou
July 17, 2018

Advertisers paid between $399,451 and $475,963 for 30-second sports during the broadcast of the final match, according to SQAD, a research company. This was about 12 per cent cheaper than the equivalent adverts for 2014’s final.

Without a US team to root for, the world’s largest brands, advertisers, and Fox tried hard to persuade Americans to watch the World Cup regardless. Volkswagen made light of the situation with an advert in which fans from Switzerland, Brazil and Argentina urged US viewers to cheer for their teams instead…

Read more at: Financial Times.

By |July 17th, 2018|In The News, News Room|0 Comments

World Cup Expects Lower Unit Pricing, Fox Earns Higher Revenues Overall

By: Wayne Friedman
July 12, 2018

Research company SQAD says advertisers have paid between $399,451 and $475,963 for 30-second spots during the broadcast of the championship’s deciding contest.

Croatia beat England 2-1 in extra time Wednesday. France topped Belgium 1-0 Tuesday.

Four years ago, when the 2014 World Cup Final aired on ABC, spots cost between $448,512 and $534,206, about 12% more than Fox is getting…

Read more at: MediaPost.

By |July 13th, 2018|In The News, News Room|0 Comments

Fox Nears Sellout for World Cup Final Match

By: Jon Lafayette
July 12, 2018

Fox Sports is nearing a sellout for the World Cup final between France and Croatia in Russia on Sunday.

As of Thursday morning there were two spots left and Fox says it has multiple offers for those units.

Prices appear to be rising as the tournament nears its conclusion, with at least one spot going for $750,000, according to Fox.

Research company SQAD said that through Wednesday, advertisers had paid between $399,451 and $474,963 for 30-second spots during the World Cup Final…

Read more at: Broadcasting & Cable.

By |July 12th, 2018|In The News, News Room|0 Comments

Fox Getting Up to $475K for World Cup Final Ads

By: Jon Lafayette
July 11, 2018

…Research company SQAD says advertisers have paid between $399,451 and $475,963 for 30-second spots during the broadcast of the championship’s deciding contest.

Croatia beat England 2-1 in extra time Wednesday. France topped Belgium 1-0 Tuesday.

Four years ago, when the 2014 World Cup Final aired on ABC, spots cost between $448,512 and $534,206, about 12% more than Fox is getting…

Read more at: Broadcasting & Cable.

By |July 11th, 2018|In The News, News Room|0 Comments

ABC Heats Up Summer

By: Wayne Friedman
June 27, 2018

…ABC has started the first month of the summer TV season with the best results among broadcast networks — in terms of viewership and program-specific unit advertising pricing…

According to SQAD, the advertising research company, ABC has also posted top results this summer for “The Bachelorette” in terms of 30-second unit pricing — from a low of $248,065 to a high of $295,401…

Read more at: MediaPost.

By |June 27th, 2018|In The News, News Room|0 Comments

DATA REPORT: 2018 Summer Program Premieres

The summer means it’s time to hit the beach, eat way too much ice cream, and of course, indulge in our guilty-pleasure TV shows. The SQAD Data Team looked into the ad costs for the premiere episodes of some of this season’s biggest premiers, and discovered the following comparison insights.

Of the broadcast programs we analyzed, ABC’s “The Bachelorette” came out as the leader for average unit costs with $248,065 – $295,401, showing advertisers to expect a strong showing for the 14th season. Also making a strong showing were several NBC shows including “America’s Got Talent”, “World of Dance”, and “American Ninja Warrior”, each of which brought in over $150,000 in average unit costs.

The table below ranks the shows by combination unit costs for premiere episodes, and provides the Low and High averages.

Program Network Low High
BACHELORETTE ABC $248,065 $295,401
AMERICA’S GOT TALENT NBC $222,868 $265,396
WORLD OF DANCE NBC $167,745 $199,755
MASTERCHEF FOX $111,842 $133,183
BIG BROTHER CBS $80,995 $96,451
UNDERCOVER BOSS CBS $61,998 $73,828
By |June 25th, 2018|SQAD Data Reports|0 Comments