Who says the heyday of the network TV business is over? The Big Three are still clutching at least one vestige of their glorious past: the so-called “integration fees” they charge advertisers — for buying an ad.
Those fees, established in the 1950s, have long stuck in advertisers’ collective craw. They’re supposed to cover the cost of taking a videotape (or in the really old days, some film) getting it onto network airwaves. But they’re obviously not necessary, since advertisers only pay them to the original big three networks: If you buy an ad on Fox, or the CW, or a cable, or syndicated TV, or local TV, the fees don’t apply. And in a digital age, they’re even more archaic.
Now, B&C reports that two of the biggest advertising trade group are asking the networks to do away with the fees. What’s at stake? Today, the fees average $470 per spot for primetime and evening news and $230 per unit during daytime and late-night, totalling $125 million a year. It’s a pittance in the grand scheme, but don’t expect the networks to give it up easily: The more uncertain their future looks, the less likely they are to give up guaranteed dollars.
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