Which shows make the most money from ads?

Television networks don't even try to pretend that the industry is about the art--it's all about the Benjamins. Money makes the TV business go 'round, and most of that moolah comes from advertisers, who shell out cash so viewers will buy that fast-food burger, luxury car, or Rotato.

Forbes put together a list of the 15 shows that make the most money from advertisers, and there are definitely some shockers. Not shocking at all is which show sits in the top slot: Fox's American Idol. No show draws more average viewers or puts up higher ratings than Idol, and therefore no show makes more money based on ads.

The list estimates American Idol pulls in $7 million per half hour, with an average 30-second spot setting advertisers back $623,000. By comparison, the second show on the list, 24, rakes in $366,000 per ad.

The list also shows what we already suspected. Heroes, despite turning in its worst season viewers- and ratings-wise, still commands top dollar because of its audience, which is dominated by heavily invested young males. In other words, those likely to spend money.

Other knowledge mined from the list: CBS absolutely duped advertisers with Worst Week (which placed 13th on the rundown). The network hailed it as a can't-miss comedy, but the show performed well under expectations and eventually was replaced in its timeslot by the better-performing Gary Unmarried. No matter, advertisers financially commit to series at the Upfronts (a schmooze-fest where networks wine and dine advertisers to pimp their wares) before the shows even hit the air. In other words, CBS pockets the money regardless of how the show performs. Contrast this with breakout hit The Mentalist, which was well undersold and should easily make the list next season.

Estimated ad revenue for television's top shows
Show--estimated ad revenue per half hour
1. American Idol--$7 million
2. 24--$3.7 million
3. Desperate Housewives--$2.9 million
4. Grey's Anatomy--$2.7 million
5. Two and a Half Men--$2.6 million
6. Dancing with the Stars results show--$2.5 million
7. Dancing with the Stars performance show--$2.4 million
8. Heroes--$2.1 million
9. Brothers & Sisters--$2.1 million
10. Survivor--$2.1 million
11. CSI--$2.1 million
12. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition--$2 million
13. Worst Week--$2 million
14. House--$1.9 million
15. Private Practice--$1.8 million

No Lost, no The Office, no NCIS? What other shows are you surprised to see didn't make the list?

Comments (32)
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Apr 27, 2009
I think Lost suffers from the DVR effect. I know myself and a LOT of fans DVR it, since there are so many nuances to the show you just HAVE to be able to rewind and rewatch segments. And thus fast forward past the commercials. And I think advertisers are smart enough to know this.
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Apr 25, 2009
wow, a bit surprised
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Apr 21, 2009
Bones, HIMYM and Ghost Whisperer mainly. GW is supposed to be raking in around 11 million viewers an ep of late. And why is house so low on the list?
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Apr 19, 2009
Most of these shoes are available online over the internet: 1. American Idol 2. 24 3. Desperate Housewives 4. Grey's Anatomy
5. Two and a Half Men 6 and 7. Dancing With the Stars 8. Heroes 9. Brothers and Sisters 10. Survivor 11. CSI 12. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition 13. Worst Week 14. House 15. Private Practice Enjoy!
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Apr 19, 2009
Most of these shoes are available online over the internet:
1. American Idol
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-American-Idol.aspx
2. 24
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-24.aspx
3. Desperate Housewives
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-Desperate-Housewives.aspx
4. Grey's Anatomy
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-Grey-s-Anatomy.aspx
5. Two and a Half Men
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-Two-and-a-Half-Men.aspx
6. Dancing With the Stars
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-Dancing-with-the-Stars.aspx
7.Heroes http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-HEROES.aspx
8. Brothers and Sisters
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-Brothers-and-Sisters.aspx
9. http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-Brothers-and-Sisters.aspx
10. Survivor
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-Survivor.aspx
11. CSI
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-CSI.aspx
12. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-Extreme-Makeover-Home-Edition.aspx
13. Worst Week
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-Worst-Week.aspx
14. House http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-House.aspx
15. Private Practice
http://www.bbpctv.com/Program-Private-Practice.aspx Enjoy!
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Apr 18, 2009
That fiasco with Worst Week must have pissed off a lot of advertisers. Tough to imagine that Lost have no place on a list where Private Practice can crack in at #15.
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Apr 17, 2009
my favorite show and the best show is 24
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Apr 16, 2009
ghost whisperer,the mentalist,medium,csi miami,criminal minds.
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Apr 16, 2009
ghostwhisperer!
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Apr 15, 2009
my favorite show is 24 but i was wondering if there if jack and renee are in love with each other. could someone tell me.
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Apr 14, 2009
I'm surprised Chuck did not make the list
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Apr 14, 2009
What about the shows that are off air at the moment?
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Apr 14, 2009
No Lost? Are you kidding me? How about Prison Break when it was still on air? And 24 rocks!
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Apr 14, 2009
I'm surprised that PP, I mean, I know it's aiming for woman and stuff, but what about Gossip Girl aiming purely on what must be the biggest spenders of all; teenage girls obsessed by what's hot right now? And exactly, no Lost? The other CSI's? Every other hit criminal show? I'm glad Heroes made the list, that secures the show for a good run.
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Apr 13, 2009
Ah, the true meter of success, not necessarily quality but what can sell products best. Wonder how well some of these do in DVD sales/rentals . . . because who doesn't want to own a piece of reality history? IMO
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Apr 13, 2009
2 1/2 men is up on the chart probably because like 90% of it's audience is 20-30 years old and those are the ones who spend the most money
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Apr 13, 2009
America´s Next Top Model was surprising it wasn´t there!
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Apr 13, 2009
Fringe and Bones should be up there with CSI. 24? Desperate Housewives! Extreme Makeoever!! Oh for crying out loud. "I think we can agree it's the fools, no matter where you go in this world, it's the fools that form the overwhelming majority" - Henrik Ibsen -
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Apr 13, 2009
How about: The Mentalist - The Closer - Fringe - Bones - NCIS -
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Apr 13, 2009
How can two and a half men be that high up?!? It's not even that funny.
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Apr 12, 2009
24 u r the best !! but btw where is LOST ?
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Apr 11, 2009
so glad my favorites: 24, Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters are on the list.....yeahhhh!!!!
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Apr 11, 2009
WOW! GA makes a lot of money... amazingly more than House.
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Apr 11, 2009
24 the best it is expected should have been on the top slot. Plot is true to fact which we are facing every day in US..It is true that CTU was better managed than Homeland security..
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Apr 11, 2009
2.5 men is a shock!!
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Apr 11, 2009
I an surprised to see Heroes made it to that list while Lost didn't... I mean they both target the same audience more or less and Lost has far better ratings...
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Apr 11, 2009
Why are Heroes and 24 so high?
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Apr 11, 2009
It's weird the Simpsons isn't on here. Everyone watches that.
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Apr 11, 2009
i can't believe 24 makes that much...
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Apr 11, 2009
No Ghost Whisperer, no Lost, no Bones?
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Apr 11, 2009
OOO Charmed Icon , :) Yay for B& sisters making the list.
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Apr 10, 2009
That shows that Private Practice retains at least 2/3 of the Grey's Anatomy audience.
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