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

TARRYTOWN, N.Y., August 17, 2018 ( – 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