NBC raises rates of commercials on Carson's last show

April 30, 1992|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- If you listen carefully amid the applause for Johnny Carson as he prepares to leave late-night television after 30 years, you might hear the sound of cash registers ringing.

Between now and May 22, when the final "Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" will run, NBC will raise its rates for a 30-second commercial, in stages, about fivefold -- yes, fivefold -- to almost $200,000 for the finale.

That instant inflation from the regular price of $40,000 will place the show's rates on a par with what marketers like Miller Brewing and Wendy's might pay for a 30-second commercial on a hit prime-time series like "Roseanne." But it is still far below the $850,000 it cost for a 30-second spot during Super Bowl XXVI in January.

The reason for the hefty price tag is clear: NBC anticipates the show's normal audience of about 10 million will swell to about 35 million for the finale, said Curt Block, a network spokesman. That would be the second-largest audience ever for "Tonight"; 58 million tuned in Dec. 17, 1969, to watch singer Tiny Tim marry his Miss Vicki.

Mr. Carson announced his impending retirement last May; a month later NBC announced Jay Leno would replace him.

Mr. Carson's show routinely generates annual advertising revenues of $100 million.

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