How to Buy TV Airtime

by Bruce Santucci ; Updated September 26, 2017
TV broadcast station

Good-quality television advertisements often have a big impact on us. The best ones often get us talking to our friends because they are funny or memorable in some way. The problem for small businesses or start-ups is that advertising on TV is expensive. Production costs for broadcast-quality video can be enormous and you need to be prepared to spend 5 to 10 percent of your gross monthly profit for up to six months or longer to wage an effective TV campaign. Once you have identified a target audience demographic and everything else is in place, you'll want to get your TV commercial on the air as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

Call the TV station

Call one of your local TV or cable TV stations and ask to talk to a salesperson. Tell him you want to buy some air time and you would to see the station rate cards, demographics, brochures and anything else they have. Ask the representative if there is a particular video format required for the station's video ads.

Bring a video copy of your ad

Bring the video copy of your 15- to 30-second video ad to the meeting and be prepared to give it to the station representative when he comes to visit your office. Alternatively, tell him you'll bring the video when you pay for the air time.

Compare the extent of ad exposure.

Contact every TV station in your local area to compare and judge the extent of exposure you want. Ask each station representative to send information packages that include their coverage and demographic data along with their rate cards prior to your meetings with them. This rate information will help you plan your TV ad budget before you actually sit down in face-to-face meetings with the station sales representatives.

Buy TV ad time slots.

At your meeting with the sales representative, negotiate to lower the rates you received on the rate cards. Never accept the going prices on the rate cards. Every rate card is negotiable. Your sales representative is primarily interested in his commission on your purchase.

Show your ad to a TV station

Show your 15- to 30-second video ad to the TV station. If it is appropriate to the station and doesn't violate any terms of broadcast, it will accept and play it during your predetermined slots.


  • Before you tell the sales representative your budget, get the rate card. The rate card should be part of the ad package sent to you. It's important because it will give you an idea of the cost of 15- to 30-second time slots during each program broadcast by the station. Broadcast stations don't like to give out rate cards so you need to be persistent.

    You can cut your costs by buying a set of TV spots that play at the same general time over a full week or even several months instead of at random time slots that the station representative might recommend. Spots that run after midnight for example will amplify your exposure to those are watching at that time and may be more effective for your purposes.

    Offer to pay 1/2 or 1/3 cash up front to get the best discount from the sales representative.

About the Author

Bruce Santucci works as a freelance researcher, writer/editor, trainer,video narrator, and handyman for BAS & Associates, Inc with published articles in the New Meridan Magazine, Handyman Magazine and eHow. He also researches health products and writes regularly for numerous website and blog owners. He graduated from Seattle University in 1976

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