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The average cost of a 30-second spot on prime-time TV dropped 16%, to about $84,000 in Q309, vs. the same quarter in 2008, according to analysis by independent media agency TargetCast tcm. The decrease - slightly higher than in recent quarters when declines were in single digits - was the result of lower ratings and the recession.

Ratings among adults ages 25-54 were down about 10% for the quarter, compared with the same quarter last year, excluding the Olympics which ran in Q308, said Gary Carr, TargetCast SVP and executive director of national broadcast.

TargetCast said Fox (NASDAQ:NWSA) has the highest average cost, at $121,000. ABC (NYSE:DIS), CBS and NBC (NYSE:GE) average between $70,000 and $80,000, reports MediaBuyerPlanner.

Total broadcast dollar volume for the upfront, which stretched well into the third quarter, was down 22% for broadcasters, to $7.2 billion, according to Credit Suisse.

The cost of cable spots increased slightly during the same period. Ratings across the top 15 cable networks were up nearly 5% among 25-54 year olds, because of original scripted series, newsworthy events and reality shows. The average cost of a prime-time cable ad across those top 15 networkss increased a corresponding 5%, to just more than $10,000. ESPN and TNT had the highest ad costs, at $27,000 and $17,000, respectively.

Cable’s upfront was also down significantly, though not as much as broadcast. The tally for cable was $6.73 billion, down 12% from last year.

The fourth quarter may not follow the trend seen in Q3, media buying executives believe, pointing out that networks have been earning double-digit CPM price increases in scatter, MediaBuyerPlanner added.

About the analysis: The TargetCast tcm analysis, using syndicated research and tracking data from the NetCosts system, examined actual reported spending for primetime ads on ABC (DIS), CBS, NBC (GE), FOX (NWSA) and all ad-supported cable networks to compute an average unit cost for each network.

Source: Cost of Prime-Time TV Spot Drops in Q309