Barack Obama to pay big for primetime buy

Half-hour ads will run on Oct. 29

NEW YORK -- Barack Obama will pay NBC and CBS almost $1 million each for the campaign's half-hour ad buy in primetime Wednesday, Oct. 29, less than a week before the election.

According to papers available at CBS's headquarters in New York, the campaign agreed Monday to pay $961,000 for the entire 8-8:30 pm time period. It wasn't clear whether that was in pattern, meaning it would run across all time zones at that period.

NBC will sell Obama the half-hour time buy for $891,250 gross and $775,000 net, according to documents from NBC available at its 30 Rock headquarters.

The agreed-upon prices are not what it would cost an average advertiser for a half-hour time buy, which are extremely rare in broadcast network primetime anyway. They are the so-called "lowest unit cost" that is required under federal law.

The campaign's ad buyer GMMB of Washington, D.C., first approached CBS as well as NBC, ABC and Fox for half-hour time buys on Thursday, Oct. 30, Sunday, Nov. 2 and Monday, Nov. 3 -- the latter just one day before the election. But Sunday's "roadblock" of ads had been deemed unworkable due to NFL football on NBC during primetime and possibly late-running games on both CBS and Fox.

The Thursday and Sunday buys would have been more costly, with CBS quoting the campaign a lowest unit cost of $1.5 million for 8-8:30 pm and $1.8 million for 8:30-9 pm. On Sept. 25, a CBS internal communication suggested that the campaign wasn't interested "as of now" in the Thursday spot.

The Obama campaign declined to provide other details other than to say that it had bought time on CBS and was negotiating with other networks.

There was no comment from the McCain campaign. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news regarding the ad buys on Thursday.