‘Jeopardy’ Illustrates A Downside Of Upfront Buying

The syndicated game show’s ad costs were unchanged despite the James Holzhauer winning streak.

James Holzhauer’s recently ended winning streak was a windfall for him, and depending on the overall ratings performance, may provide a positive impact on ad costs for Jeopardy in upfront negotiations. But the winning streak and the attention it generated had no measurable impact on the show’s current average ad costs.

According to an analysis of data from SQAD MediaCosts: National, the Jeopardy example is a perfect microcosm of the pros and cons of upfronts buying. Data shows that the large volume of upfront buys for the program in effect insulated advertisers and producers from volatility throughout the year, but it also prevented the show from taking advantage of unforeseen shortterm spikes in popularity.

For Jeopardy, the vast majority of its national ad time for 2019 was sold in upfronts, meaning ad costs values were locked in months before Holzhauer took the national spotlight. The remaining scatter inventory was not enough to impact the average ad cost during the winning streak.

Depending on how the show performed with viewers throughout the year — possibly bolstered by Holzhauer’s run — the production company may decide to make rate adjustments in the upcoming upfront negotiations. As these rates are typically determined by previous year’s viewership performance, it is more likely that these types of high-profile events helped to cement the long-term reliability of Jeopardy as an anchor for advertisers throughout the year.

The SQAD MediaCosts: National five-month average ad costs comparison for Jeopardy found that:

  • In January 2019, the average :30 cost on Jeopardy was $107,701
  • The average add cost has seen declines since January, down 9% as of May 2019
  • The data shows a 48% drop in average ad costs from February to March 2019
  • Average ad costs rebounded 41% in April 2019, to $92,821
  • Ad costs have continued to recover since the low in March 2019
  • May 2019 average ad costs were $98,172
Month Avg. :30
Jan 2019 $107,701
Feb $104,170
Mar $55,169
Apr $92,821
May $98,172

Source: SQAD MediaCosts: National

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