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Got to have "Friends"
Last episode of popular NBC sitcom fetching Super Bowl-like $2M ad price for 30 second spot.
January 21, 2004: 9:19 AM EST
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money Senior Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Advertisers are paying Super Bowl-type prices to be on the last episode of the NBC series "Friends" -- $2 million for a 30-second commercial.

NBC is getting $2 million for a  30-second spot on the last episode of  
NBC is getting $2 million for a 30-second spot on the last episode of "Friends."

But the May 6 show is close to sold out, according to NBC spokeswoman Hillary Smith. The only question is exactly how long the last episode will be, and how long a retrospective that will precede the show will be. Together they will be 2-hours long, with the show itself "about an hour."

There is more advertising time available on the retrospective, where 30-second spots are going for $1.25 million, according to Smith. She would not identify advertisers who have bought time on either show. According to trade publication Advertising Age, a 30-second spot on a typical episode of "Friends" went for between $450,000 and $475,000 when NBC sold the time in the so-called "upfront" market last spring.

The show, in its 10th season for NBC, still is one of the top-rated programs on television. It's average rating so far this year is 12.7, meaning it is reaching that percentage of U.S. homes. That puts it No. 3 behind CBS crime drama "CSI" and NBC hospital drama "E.R."

But when hit shows go off the air with well-planned and heavily promoted finales, it produces a significant bump in ratings of between two to three times their normal rating for their last season, according to data about the top-rated finales of all time from Nielsen Media Research.

The last episode of "M*A*S*H," the highest rated show in television history, got a 60.2 rating on Feb. 28, 1983 and had a 77 share, meaning it was watched by better than three-quarters of all U.S. homes watching television that evening.

But in those days of three networks and before widespread use of cable, television shows on the networks got much better ratings. "M*A*S*H" had an average 22.6 rating in its last season. That's better than the top rated episode of any series last year -- the season finale of "Joe Millionaire" got a 21.8 rating last February. So M*A*S*H's final episode was only 2.7 times greater than its rating for its final season overall.

A ratings multiple for Friends' final show over this year's ratings similar to what "M*A*S*H" or "Cheers" got for their last episodes would give the last "Friends" about a rating in the 34 to 36 range, just below the expected 40.0 rating for this year's Super Bowl. CBS is selling time on the Feb. 1 game for $2.25 million, according to trade publication Advertising Age.


Ad buyers say it's not surprising that "Friends" last show is getting top ad dollars, especially considering there is less commercial time available than there is during a three-plus hour football game.

"It's a big event. These big events are far and few on television these days," said Andrew Donchin, director of national broadcast for media buying firm Carat USA.  Top of page

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