DATA REPORT: “The Big Bang Theory” Says Goodbye – A Historical Ad Cost Trend Analysis

CBS is saying goodbye to “The Big Bang Theory”, which will air its final season this fall after lead actor Jim Parsons decided it was time to move on from the show. As fans mentally prepare themselves for the last season, airing September 24, the SQAD Data Team jumped into the ad cost database to analyze the trends of the show since its inception in 2007 through the 2017-18 season.

In this report:

Ad Cost Trends Over the Years

In reviewing the average combination ad costs (scatter and upfront) for each of the 11 seasons, we see how the program had become a powerful revenue driver for CBS.”The Big Bang Theory” Historical Ad Cost TrendAverage Ad CostSeason 1(2007-08)Season 2(2008-09)Season 3(2009-10)Season 4(2010-11)Season 5(2011-12)Season 6(2012-13)Season 7(2013-14)Season 8(2014-15)Season 9(2015-16)Season10(2016-17)Season11(2017-18)$0$100,000$200,000$300,000$400,000

SeasonAverage Ad Cost
Season 1 (2007-08)133,355
Season 2 (2008-09)137,368
Season 3 (2009-10)201,743
Season 4 (2010-11)208,072
Season 5 (2011-12)206,357
Season 6 (2012-13)278,584
Season 7 (2013-14)320,194
Season 8 (2014-15)345,535
Season 9 (2015-16)323,333
Season 10 (2016-17)308,565
Season 11 (2017-18)276,841

Key Trend Insights:

  • The first season of “The Big Bang Theory” saw average ad costs of $133,355
  • Prices increased steadily climbed through the years until its peak during Season 8 (2014-15)
  • At the peak, ad costs were averaging $345,535, nearly 160% more than the first season
  • Since season 8 on, prices have declined:
    • Down 6% from Season 8 to 9
    • Down 5% from Season 9 to 10
    • Down 10% from Season 10 to 11
  • Season 11 averaged $276,841 per 30 second ad, which was:
    • 108% higher than the first season
    • 20% lower than the peak at Season 8

It’s not clear if the decreasing revenues are related to decreasing popularity with advertisers over the past few years, or if the market is simply correcting from an overly enthusiastic bidding war for the loyal viewers.

How “The Big Bang Theory” Compares to Competing Shows This Fall

The final season of “The Big Bang Theory” will premiere with a special on Monday, September 24, and then return to its Thursday 8 P.M. spot. The Data Team compared the 11th season to competing shows airing on the Thursday time slot on other broadcast networks (using 2017-18 data).Fall 2018-19 Programming, Thursdays 8 P.M.Average Ad Cost$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000$250,000$300,000Big Bang Theory (CBS)Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)Superstore (NBC)Supernatural (The CW)

ProgramAverage Ad Cost
Big Bang Theory (CBS)276,841
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)168,946
Superstore (NBC)102,705
Supernatural (The CW)29,510

Key Trend Insights:

  • “The Big Bang Theory” takes the lead with an average ad cost of $276,841
    • 64% ahead of ABC’s hit show “Grey’s Anatomy” – which averages $168,946 per :30
    • 170% better than NBC’s “Superstore”
    • 10 times higher than “Supernatural” on The CW