Big money on 'Friends' finale

MUMBAI: What is so special about Friends grand finale? First is the super secrecy shroud around the final episode, then the media frenzy to get the parting quote of the six, and the last is the 30 second ad spot rates.



The rates being quoted are unheard of for a sitcom and compares to Super Bowl rates. A cool $2 million per 30-second spot is what the last and final episode commands. The Super Bowl airing on CBS is higher of course at $2.3 million per 30-second spot.

 

But that isn't all. NBC's celebrated sitcom's finale, scheduled to air on Thursday 6 May, on the US network, is fully sold out. In India, the ninth season is currently on air.



According to media reports, the price for the finale is more than five times the average price NBC got for the show in the fourth quarter 2003 - about $380,000 per 30 seconds. It is about $500,000 more than this year's Academy Awards show.



While the actual finale is priced quite high, the one hour curtain raiser to the show doesn't come cheap either at $1.25 million per 30 sec unit. All told, the closing episode is expected to pack in $70 million+ in ad pickings for NBC.



But does that mean that departure of the show tantamount to huge losses. Not necessarily if they can get in a decent replacement. If one looks at the figures, Friends reaped a lot of profit but making it was a huge investment. When the NBC top grossers, Friends and Frasier, depart they free nearly $300 million in annual license fees!



The show had raked in $4.3 million an episode in license fees and barter advertising for its first off-network syndication cycle, for its producers Warner Bros. The second cycle sold for nearly $1 billion in network license fees over 10 years and other income from international sales and home video, and Friends franchise earned almost $3 billion-plus.



Media reports indicate that Friends costs $10 million per episode this year, up from $7.5 million the prior year and it brought in $15 million to $20 million this year. That means just 18 episodes cost NBC a whooping $180 million.



While the departure of the shows frees a lot of investment, it puts forth another problem - what will fill Friends' time slot? The network has some high-profile projects in development, particularly Friends spin-off Joey, so far, but reports indicate that the network isn't overly optimistic on its chances.

But that's for later. As of now the what is worth noting is how despite the season's stress between networks and their ad clients over double-digit rate hikes, NBC was able to jack up the rate for Friends five-fold for the finale. That is still not the all-comers record though.The 1998 finale for Seinfeld was 38 per cent higher than what is being quoted for Friends.

So what is the finale going to be like? According to reports, the creators of Friends have been taking accurate notes from some of television's best finales to guide them in crafting the final episode of television's most popular sitcom. The stars on the other hand have been $ 2 million each for the finale episode. Oh my gwaad!

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