View Full Version : Local Television Commercial Production Rates?

12-27-2004, 04:10 PM
Hey all. My company has been asked to produce a commercial for a small pizza joint. It's for local cable, will air in three or four cities.
Can anyone give me an idea of what rates people generally charge for this sort of thing? We're a new company, fresh out of SC film school, so we're obviously looking to cut the guy a little break. But we want to have an idea of what kind of market we're talking about here. Idea conception, production and post will be handled by us.
So, what kinds of budgets have you guys seen, and then also what kinds of fees?

Jim Brennan
12-27-2004, 04:25 PM
I've seen local spots (Colorado) done for as little as 2K. That was with a marketing company that also got them a break on broadcast rates. It was very basic spot (A woman showing daily specials at a liquor store)

Comcast Cable charges 1K just for you to use their facilities for a shoot.

I looked for local spots, then went to the merchants and asked what it cost. They were all willing to give me the info I needed. One even asked me if I would be interested in shooting his next ad. So ask around. I imagine your market rates are a little higher.

12-27-2004, 06:06 PM
Check with your local cable company to see what their production rates are. Where I live, they practically give the spots away so it's nearly impossible to compete based on price. And I'm not suggesting you should either. Being the WalMart of production companies does more harm than good. The problem I'm faced with is, local advertisers expect TV spots for cheap but at the same time complain about how crappy the cable company produced spots look. They also don't grasp the concept that a crappy spot reflects on their business. I've had a client or two who have seen the light too.

$1500-2000 for a :30 for starters isn't out of line at all, provided it's decent. $5K would probably be considered the minimum in some areas. A spot for regional use should command even more.

12-29-2004, 09:14 PM
Ive done freelance work on cable spots for Comcast and Cablevision. They charge bargain basement rates for spots, just enough to cover the shooting and editing, because they make there money in the actual airing of the spots. If they shoot a 30 sec. spot for prices ive seen ranging from 600 - 1500, and that includes the editing, they know they'll make there revenue from the clients paying to air them.

12-30-2004, 04:41 PM
We've produced around thirty local spots in the Los Angeles area, tough to do and really make any money. We charge a minimum of $1,500, and have charged up to 5 k for them. I always suggest that the client opt for multiple commercials that can all be shot in one or two days, bringing the cost down somewhat. I generally need to make at least $2,500 per in order to do scripting, shooting, directing, editing and transfers to beta sp. Again, the problem is that the cable companies will do it for next to nothing.

01-05-2005, 11:16 AM
I've heard some TV stations and cable providers shoot/edit the spot for FREE if the client agree to buying a certain amount air time. Geez. I don't know about you guys, but I have no interest in working at this level of the business.

01-05-2005, 12:36 PM
I've griped about that before as well. Seems there should be an anti-trust violation going on.

01-05-2005, 06:42 PM
The best thing that you can do is offer better quality, scripting, shooting and editing than the cable companies. They don't do bells and whistles AT all.

01-20-2005, 09:44 PM
Cable companies are the anti Christ!!

Where I live...they own all the rights to broadcasting into my home. it is a monopoly, now they want to shoot it too? I remember not long ago when shaw cable was petitioning the CRTC for a rate increase because a certain satellite company was nawing away at their revenues. Trouble is, they owned the satellite company. I hate Cable only seconded by 90% of what they pipe to me >:(

03-10-2005, 11:23 AM
I work at a local FOX affiliate, and our rate is $250.00. They have to buy airtime for the rate. I have been a producer/Editor/Photographer for several years at the station. I almost have enough business through freelance to quit my job(working for the man).I can tell you this line of work beats working at a factory, but shooting mom and pop stores everyday gets old. You don't have much room for creativity and it gets boring. You can make some money if you are willing to shoot a spot that looks better than the competetion(on your own)We shoot with DVCPRO(ENG)cameras, while they are good cameras they are not really meant for producing commercals. My spots that I have produced with my panny stomps what I do here at work like a grape.

03-11-2005, 08:56 AM
i work at a Time Warner Cable production facility and our rate for a 30 second spot is $975 for two hours shooting...3 hours Avid editing...2 hours graphics, Mainly logos.

we shoot with a Sony DVW 790.

Note. Any additional shoot time is $150 per hour. Any additional Editing or graphics time is $100 per hour.

With the work we do (5 producers) this is an absolute steal.
But, alas some people are never happy.

We also use Maya, Toon boom and After Effects.

You can make good spots for a low price...you just have to realize some aren't going to be that great and just do what you can.

Final Design Studios
03-11-2005, 11:36 AM
Up here in alaska I've seen spots go for $300 for low quality, and $1500 for the REALLY good guys.

NOTE: I'm a semi-good guy up here, and mine go for about $600-$800

03-14-2005, 09:18 AM
A lot of people mention that the cable companies will do the shoot for free but that is only if they buy ENOUGH air time. Alot of mom and pop places really cant afford a huge amount of air time. So there would seem to be a market for the mom and pops that cant commit to a huge campaign. I alsounderstand that you can approach the cable company as an advertsing agency and get a commission per spot wich allows you to resell the spot to the client. where i live i think its a 15% commission. So now i can approach Momma Mia's Pizza and hair care center. sell her a commercial for $XX and then also sell her 1 spot or 1000 spots. I get my commercial money and i get 15% on each spot i sell her.

Nick Adams
03-22-2005, 08:53 PM
This post reminded me of when I was traveling through Idaho last year (maybe montana) and overnighted in this town, after watching the local cable for five minutes I couldn't believe the terrible quality that was being done for these local businesses....

04-03-2005, 07:28 AM
Smithgalltv has the right idea but there is much more involved. When you become an advertising agency you become responsible for the clients billing. If they don't pay you must agree to make payment.

I have owned an advertising agency since 1984 and have been producing tv spots and long form video since 1987. Much of what you all have been talking about is very much true, but here are some reasons for your dilemma.

Cable TV has been around a lot less time than Newspaper or Radio. Newspaper and Radio have never charged for production, therefore establishing the "do it for free" problem.
Of course producing a tv spot is much more time consuming and costly, but the client doesn't care.

Many agencies have just avoided recommeding cable tv because buying outside production cuts too deeply into any profit the agency would make.
They can't ignore it any longer. Too many car dealers and regional advertisers have been exposed to the power of cable tv, both from a cost perspective and because it brings in business.

There is a ripe environment out there. The demand is increasing and the need for a "professional look" could never be more important.
Consider overhead (what it cost your to make a tv spot). Before I switched to a NLE system, I was insuring over $150,000 in equipment. Now the overhead is a fraction of that.

My point being, don't try to establish your price on an arbitrary number. Find out what the cable company charges and charge less and produce your commercials faster and with more customer service. It won't be long before the account executives (who actually sell the air time and recommend production companies) will find out about you.

If you write the script, shoot the footage, edit and master. The only out of pocket (costs of goods sold) should be a voice-over and beta sp tape stock.

You can be much more competive. Once you become known and have a track record, then you can screw around with price.

04-03-2005, 08:00 PM

That was a very informative post. You mentioned Beta Sp tapes, did you mean for the final product, meaning you transfer your final product to beta sp so the station can use it or did you imply that the commercial be shot on a beta cam? obvisouly this is a dvx board so most of us would expect to use that but of course the cable company will show up with their normal ENG type of camera.

04-03-2005, 08:07 PM
just as an update to this topic. I have recently verbally contratced with three seperate businesses to shoot their commercials specificaly for the Video On Demand feature that most cable companies are either using now or will be very soon. The cable company is totaly col with this and i think that once the spots are in the can we can get more business. because the VOD is a longer format, like 3-5 minutes i think the cable co wasnt keen on doing it. more time and effort than the pan+pan+ graphic+VO that they usually do. Also because we approached the cable co with the media buy the client was already ours and they woudnt want to intervene there anyway. So guess i am saying there is a market available. We havent finalized a shoot yet so we are still working towards it but we have verbal commitment and we have met with the client (he is over all three locations) to go over script ideas and are now in the process of writing rough outlines. i will keep you all posted.

04-03-2005, 10:00 PM
The real deal cable companies, Adelphia for one, here in L.A. will accept Beta Sp, Mini Dv and DVC Pro for the final product. We have produced around 30 commercials in the past couple of years, but they are a pain where you sit down.

04-03-2005, 11:00 PM

What dont you liek about them? I looked at a few of your productions on your website. A lot of variety. Here in Florida we cant do lawyers commercials like yours. The florida bar will only allow lawyers of the firm in the commercials, not even secretaries and then they have to be shot against a colored background or their office. So basically every lawyer commercial is identical. Wish we had more creativity then all advertise a lot.

04-04-2005, 05:44 AM
The Beta SP is only for the final air copy to go to the cable or broadcast outlet. There are some places starting to accept dv cam or mini dv but most still want Beta SP, besides only one request for beta sp demands that you have the capability.
I don't shoot on anything but dv now, but I have kept a deck of most every format though, 3/4, 3/4sp, svhs, beta etc., just in case a client has source footage.
We have been approached to do those vod tapes also, but with a cost of $1000 to $1500 per produced minute, most clients will need cpr. That and the fact that it takes to many hours to produce is the reason most cable companies don't get involved.

04-04-2005, 05:47 AM
there are multiple meetings, handholding, script development. If you could just do the commercial it would be ok. But it usually is more time spent than what it is worth, especially if the client is really "hands on". I had one client that wanted to spend two days in post, full days not just an hour or so. Now I have a time limit in my contract with clients an exact amount of time for post. In addition, I have a time limit on acceptance of the final product with financial penalties for late acceptance after completion. I also found that I didn't want to act as an agent for clients, because I don't want to be responsible for their "non-payment" of the run fees. The only way I will act as an agent is for them to pay a month in advance. If they want a run in May for example, they will get billed the first of April with a due date of April 15, that way I can pull the commercial if they don't pay. It's a fine line between customer service and no bank for the production company for local spots.

Rick Pearson
11-15-2006, 08:16 AM
I'm bringing back an old post. A few people on here mentioned Cable's VOD as having longer spots for clients to purchase (around 2-3 minute video segments), is this something they are doing? Do cable companies have a platform for short longform commercial projects?

11-15-2006, 07:25 PM
Here in SF, comcast does all the production free when you buy airtime.

11-16-2006, 12:51 PM
Idea conception, production and post will be handled by us.

When you make your bid, you should make the creative part separate from the production and the production separate from the post. It sounded like a lot of the numbers you are getting here are mostly for production (right?), and you may want your bill to reflect that you are doing more than just the production part (and hence charge more).

And you'll definitely want to look into buying media time for your client, it's a bit more work, but you can make a lot off the commisions. I know a few guys that run a mini ad agency here in LA and make more than their production fees off the commissions.


Rick Pearson
11-17-2006, 07:42 AM
My post is a two parter, ready? First off I'll mention a pricing situation I'm in currently so people can take it for what it's worth and maybe it'll help someone figure out their pricing. I work largely on the local broadcast level producing commercials for small shops and one location stores/service professionals. I do this freelance, and as a network affiliate producer/director. My stations cite production as "added value" which is sales spin for "we give it to you so you'll buy our airtime". If we were to actually bill clients for spots, they would range between $600 - $1175. There have been instances when we do bill out for production but the stations always lower the ball and cite services valued at $600 for just $450 (2 hour shoot & 1 hour edit).

If the stations were to pay outside freelancers rather than have an in-house production department I would venture to say that they would not want to pay over $300-$350 per spot.

I am currently doing some work with an agency and one of the spots is speculative to be a 3 hour shoot and a 2 hour edit coming in around $800.

OK, that's all of my helpful information. On to part two. There will always be kids with best buy computers and a sony handycam saying they can make professional commercials $350 and under, they undercut everyone by too large of a margin and they are not at all competitive. They see it as "wow I get money now", but they don't see that when they move out of their parents home's and have to pay rent that $300 per spot isn't going to cut it, and that they won't be able to raise their prices to a competitive rate card because they've lowered the market's perception of value on commercials to an all new low that will take years to repair... and that's if it can be repaired.

The reason for my mini-rant: How are you folks surviving, paying bills, or making a profit if the above described problem exists in your market? A.) Do you lower your prices to match, and try for quantity over message effectiveness/production value? B.) Do you let the smaller area businesses that are typically penny penchers have their cheap production through the other guys? And deal only with a slightly higher level of customer? C.) Do you close up shop, open a smoothie stand, and over charge the neighborhood Producer/College Student/Director/Lawn Mower on his strawberry, banana smoothie?

I could really find what you have to say useful, thank you.

11-17-2006, 09:47 AM
How are you folks surviving, paying bills, or making a profit if the above described problem exists in your market? A.) Do you lower your prices to match, and try for quantity over message effectiveness/production value? B.) Do you let the smaller area businesses that are typically penny penchers have their cheap production through the other guys? And deal only with a slightly higher level of customer? C.) Do you close up shop, open a smoothie stand, and over charge the neighborhood Producer/College Student/Director/Lawn Mower on his strawberry, banana smoothie?

As for myself, I just never shoot local ad spots.

11-17-2006, 06:49 PM
As for myself, I just never shoot local ad spots.

Hah! Sounds flippant, but it's actually great advice. Local commercials = hell. You just can't compete against the cable company giving it away for free.

Get in with a decent ad agency and get some $5,000 to $50,000 budgets. Or ditch advertising and go into corporate/industrial/training films. No kid with a Best Buy camcorder is going to be landing those jobs, and they can pay decently well. Not huge, but if you can charge $3,000 to $15,000 and get the job done in a week or two, you can do pretty well.

But local ads = pain.

Jason Ramsey
11-17-2006, 06:56 PM
What might you suggest as an in for those Barry? Particularly the training videos.


11-17-2006, 07:15 PM
Meet somebody. Talk to the president of the company, or the head of HR. I've done tons of these things, and they can actually be quite fun if you get a fun-loving exec to work with; I did these for a real estate company every year for I don't know how many years, we did Friends and Young Frankenstein and Star Trek and all sorts of things for them; I've also worked on a lot of them for one of the casino companies; my friend and collaborator there in Vegas had good ties with the company and so we got to do Cheers and the Wizard of Oz and Star Trek and Coneheads and Weekend Update and Church Lady and all sorts of other projects for them.

Pay can be decent, but they can be big producitons too. And there can even be a modicum of creative satisfaction with these things; you get them excited about a particular idea, then you get to work up a script and make the scenario fit the particular goal they have in mind for it.

11-17-2006, 07:34 PM
If you are really aching to get into the corporate video world, and i'm not sure why you would be (I dabble and its so very boring compared to most of the rest of the industry) here's a few options. 1, get yourself into a big corporation's studio, they almost all have them and the pay is decent. Call human resources at all the big corps near you and see if they are hiring. worked for me.

2. become a notary and get into legal videography, it's not corporate, but its similar and it pays the bills

3. call the small corporations in the area and ask to talk to marketing. Then just sell yourself to them.

11-28-2006, 09:00 PM
Wow, all great posts, guys. Very informative and timely reading for me. I'm just starting to get into shooting commercials. Honestly, I have just shot one (for the local video store where I work part-time) and I will post it on DVX as soon as it's finished. I shot it on the 100a and it looks good... OK, here's the thing with cable produced commercials: they generally don't give a rat's ass about the look/performance/quality of the production. They use available talent (see husband, wife, uncle Joey, and a cousin who own the local muffler shop, and will undoubtedly be standing in front of it waving at the end of the commercial) and most of these productions don't have a "look" as much as they are only required to "look" clean. As mentioned in an earlier post, they use ENG cameras and shoot 60i or 30p. But what really stands out is their lack of imagination; poorly conceived and written scripts with crappy performances. I think the edge we (as independent thinking writers, producers and directors) have is OUR IMAGINATIONS. The cable companies are simply interested in GETTING ACROSS INFORMATION... Why not convey information in an exciting and imaginative way? This is surely our best weapon and I'm sure we can convince clients of this if we try hard enough.

12-07-2006, 01:57 PM
MaverickProds hit the nail on the head....
You will have to get in bed with the cable and local TV afffiliates, for a share of the airtime rates. If you buy several times with these folks, you can work a deal for a kick back or a reduction in Your cost.

01-29-2013, 09:39 AM
Any updates on rates for doing a 30 sec spot (prepro to post) in 2012/2013?

01-29-2013, 01:43 PM
Depends completely where you are. In the small'ish college city I grew up in ( ~80,000 population), the company that made most of the local commercials charged $200. I wish I was kidding. Obviously their commercials were complete crap, but it was extremely difficult to convince businesses to go above $500, when production value was seen as an unnecessary luxury.

In a bigger market, obviously depending on the size of crew needed and the number of shots, I wouldn't take any job under $2,000

02-15-2013, 11:13 AM
On average what do most local markets need delivered to the station for broadcast, the commercial on Beta SP or Digibeta, or do they take a file these days?

02-15-2013, 12:22 PM
On average what do most local markets need delivered to the station for broadcast, the commercial on Beta SP or Digibeta, or do they take a file these days?
You should ask your local stations. They'll be glad to tell you what their deliverable requirements are.