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Cable TV Advertising Rates Explained

Cable TV Advertising Rates Explained

9 Min Read

Trying to get your commercials on cable TV? You’re not alone! If you’re here, you’ve likely already seen some pretty intimidating figures thrown around about cable TV advertising rates.

There is no exact figure that anyone can definitively offer as to the actual cost of cable ads (until you actually buy them). However, we can tell you what factors go into the cost as well as teach you about more cost-effective and higher-performing options for television advertising.

But first, let’s cover the basics of cable advertising.

What Is Cable TV Advertising?

Cable TV advertising is commercial video content delivery provided by a cable operator to subscribers, in between programming, through coaxial cable or fiber optics. According to the FCC, this does not include any programming that is delivered without a wire via satellite.

Cable TV has been around for seemingly forever, so while the answer to this question may seem obvious to most, we’re approaching an era where this may be a legitimate question that advertisers are asking. That’s because watching content through Connected TV is slowly becoming the new normal for many TV viewers.

Types of Cable TV Advertising

There are two types of cable advertising: “spot” and “network.”

Spot TV Advertising

Brands that buy commercial time on a cable system at a specific time of day, and/or before or after a certain program, would be considered a “TV spot.”

For example, a 30-second advertising spot is (perhaps unsurprisingly) a commercial that lasts 30 seconds. Spots can vary in length, ranging from brief 15-second commercials to long-form spots that are 40 seconds or longer.

TV spots aren’t necessarily confined to specific geographic regions, either. They can be local or national spots. A national TV spot might allow you to reach a mass audience on large networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and others. On the other hand, if you’re a small business owner, you might be more interested in a local TV spot where you can display ads within a specific city or geographic region.

Network TV Advertising

A “network” buy is when brands purchase air time directly through a national cable channel such as ESPN or Food Network. Network buys are generally more expensive than TV spots. 

To word this distinction another way, network buys are purchased from the networks themselves, whereas spots are purchased from cable providers and only appear to those specific subscribers.

Broadcast vs. Cable Advertising

As opposed to cable TV Advertising, which allows brands to target zones based on specific audiences, broadcast TV advertising is advertising on networks that cover an entire market or DMA (Designated Market Area). For example, broadcast TV includes all of your local channels, such as ABC, NBC, and FOX, while cable advertising will include all of the channels that viewers have to pay for (like MTV and HGTV).

Because of this, advertising on broadcast TV will allow you to get your ads in front of a broader group of people. So while this means that you cannot target specific audiences, if your goal is to spread awareness of your brand, then this might be a good option.

Benefits of Cable TV Ads

By advertising on cable TV, brands are able to serve ads across different networks and markets. Cable TV allows advertisers to target audiences based on many factors, including demographic, geographic, behavioral, and more. This audience data is usually sourced through surveys.

Cable TV advertising also has the option for brands to pick and choose the time of day, and also specific programming that they believe their audience will be watching. But one of the main draws for brands interested in advertising on cable TV is its local targeting abilities, as this channel allows brands to hyper-target specific areas to serve them with relevant ads.

How Much Does Cable TV Advertising Cost?

While cable TV advertising costs always depend on many factors, cable is often considered cheaper than some of its linear TV counterparts. This is because cable TV advertising is usually used to reach smaller, more specific audiences. So while the CPM (cost per thousand) might be higher due to the narrower parameters, local advertisers will be able to ensure they aren’t wasting money on consumers who will never visit their locations.

However, there is the option for brands to buy the full Designated Market Area if they are advertising to more than 4 zones. A Designated Market Area, or DMA, is a geographic region within the U.S. where the entire population will receive the same TV and radio options. And because there are only 210 DMAs in all of the United States, they tend to each cover large swaths of the population.

Ultimately, the cost of advertising on cable TV will vary based on the frequency of the ads, the cost of the creative, and whether a rotator package is selected (more on that in the next section).

How Do I Get Cable TV Ads on Local Networks?

One of the easiest ways to start advertising on cable TV is by working with an advertising agency, that can help negotiate deals with a cable company directly. But if you were to do it yourself, there are a few steps you can take.

1. Identify Your Target Demographic

This demographic can be chosen based on a number of factors, including age, gender, income level, and more. Then you will need to contact the sales department of your cable provider and let them know what demographic you are interested in reaching. That salesperson can also provide you with the Scarborough data for any given cable network, which is a comprehensive breakdown of viewer demographic data. 

2. Work With the Cable Sales Representative

Whether or not a given program has time for local advertisers will depend on that program’s Nielsen rating. In other words, if a lot of viewers watch that program, there may not be available ad space for local advertisers. If that is the case, you can utilize a “rotator package,” where your cable ad will be shown at some point within a window of time (usually that window is somewhere between six to 12 hours). The problem with this kind of package is the lack of control over when your ad is served. If your ad is on TV at 3 AM, for example, it’s much less likely that any significant audience will see that ad.

3. Request an Affidavit of Performance

This log will let you know if your commercial was aired during the agreed-upon time or window, and provide information about the audience numbers during your spot. This is how you can calculate your cost per viewer.

What Is Performance TV?

MNTN Performance TV combines the impact and prestige of TV advertising with a suite of optimization, attribution, and targeting. This platform functions like search and social, with self-managed campaigns that focus on conversions and revenue.

Benefits of Performance TV

There are a number of benefits to advertising through MNTN Performance TV:

Ease of Use: One of the best things about MNTN Performance TV is that it’s easy to use! Our platform allows you to get your campaign ready to go live within minutes with four simple steps.

Start by uploading your creative, and our platform will automatically ensure that your video creative fits TV standards. Next, target your audience based on their interests, geography, in-market status, and more. You can also choose from the 30,000+ audiences via the fully integrated Oracle Data Cloud, or incorporate your CRM data to reach viewers already in your sales funnel. Then it’s time to launch your campaign and measure your success.

Accurate Performance Measurement: Another benefit to MNTN Performance TV is that it brings the accuracy of digital reporting to television. Rather than wondering whether your TV campaign is actually driving performance, you can know for sure.

Our platform allows you to track a number of performance metrics, including ROAS, visits, performance by location, cost per site visit, and many more. We’re also the only CTV advertising solution with a TV Network Report, meaning you can track the publishers and channels that generate your best ad performance. And to make it even easier, Performance TV is fully integrated with Google Analytics, allowing you to measure and verify your CTV campaign performance alongside the rest of your performance channels.

Another benefit of advertising on MNTN Performance TV is Cross-Device Verified Visits. With this offering, you can measure user visits to your site following a guaranteed in-view display of your ads. So if a user views your ad but then engages with another paid media source, verified-visits won’t take credit for the visit. That way, you can know for sure when someone sees your ad, what device they used, and if your campaign was the reason why. 

Living Room Quality: Ads served through MNTN Performance TV have the added benefit of being what we call “Living Room Quality.” This means that the content is served directly to TV screens through smart TVs of CTV devices (and not on tablets or mobile devices). This also ensures that your ad is served exclusively on top-tier streaming services such as ESPN or Bravo.

And finally, Living Room Quality ads are non-skippable, high-definition ads automatically served to inventory that drives the best performance. To read more about the benefits of Living Room Quality ads through MNTN, check out our blog on the subject here

Precision Audience Targeting: As previously mentioned, MNTN Performance TV is fully integrated with Oracle Cloud data, allowing you access to tens of thousands of third-party audiences. This gives you access to constantly updated audience segments that you can use to build custom audiences that can be broken down by your specific criteria. And our first-party audience targeting tools let you serve ads to viewers based on the actions that they take on your site, allowing you to customize your messages based on their behavior. Or you can upload your CRM directly into the platform to match the data with existing audiences.

Local TV Advertising vs. Connected TV Geotargeting

Speaking of audience targeting, another benefit to advertising on Connected TV through a company like MNTN is the ability to better track your performance through geotargeting. As previously mentioned, advertising on cable TV does allow brands to focus on specific local markets based on location. But CTV geotargeting can get even more specific.

CTV allows brands to reach local audiences based on specific levels of geography, such as cities, zip codes, states, and DMAs. However, because this is ultimately a digital channel at heart, CTV geotargeting isn’t limited to location data.

Through CTV, brands can also focus their audiences even further by layering in demographic or interest-based data. With that kind of targeting, brands can ensure that they are reaching the local audiences that are most likely to be interested in their products or services.

By advertising through MNTN Performance TV, which is fully integrated with Oracle Cloud Data, brands will also have access to tens of thousands of audience segments. Take a look at this post to learn more about Connected TV geotargeting.

Advertising on Cable TV: Final Thoughts

Ultimately, there are a number of ways you can get your ads on TV. Whether you choose to go with cable TV advertising or a CTV/OTT platform like Performance TV, the most important thing to factor into your decision-making process is what your ultimate goal will be.

While traditional linear advertising avenues like cable let brands target audiences based on specific locations, PTV allows advertisers to run their TV campaigns like a digital channel, and track the results in real-time. Essentially, you get all the benefits of cable TV advertising, but with much better targeting and measurement.