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