CBS cashed-in with advertising revenue during the M*A*S*H finale, but it was nothing compared to today's numbers

Alan Alda isn't sure if he could handle the pressure that comes with a modern-day advertising price tag.

The name of game in television, as far as business goes, is ad revenue. As a result, we have commercials! Love them or hate them, they're a huge part of the plan for any television network. 

Generally speaking, when a big event rolls around, such as a national sports championship game, a televised holiday parade, or a big series finale, networks can drive up the cost of commercials and turn a lot of viewership into a lucrative opportunity. 

With that said, it's safe to say Feb. 28, 1983 was a big day and a big opportunity for CBS, as their ultra-hit show M*A*S*H aired its final episode. The country just about came to a stand still for this series finale, which resulted in plenty of record-breaking numbers

The important number for CBS was the price tag for those ads running during the show. The network knew tens of millions of people would tune in to the final episode of the 11-season series. It's not known if CBS knew an incredible 121 million people would tune in! 

No matter what that final number of viewership was going to be, the network knew people were going to watch. As a result, CBS charged sponsers up to $450,000 per 30-second spot in 1983! According to USA Today, the cost of a Super Bowl ad that year was only $400,000.

Wildly, that $450,000 advertisment price is commonplace in modern times, and in some primetime spots, it's even more! According to a 2019-2020 report from, an ad during NBC's Sunday Night Football cost about $685,000 per spot. 

As of 2022, a 30-second Super Bowl ad cost about $6.5 million. If the M*A*S*H finale ran today, with the same context in did in 1983, there's a chance it could beat that number, and the kiss that cost $450,000 could cost several millions! 

Just the thought of that cost had Hawkeye Pierce actor Alan Alda Tweeting his thoughts during the 2022 Super Bowl. 

"In 1983 a 30 second Super Bow ad cost $450,000 for airtime. The Hawkeye/Houlihan kiss in the finale lasted a bit longer than 30 seconds. So it was called the $450,000 kiss," Alda said in the post. "It now costs $7 million for an ad. I don't know if I'm up for this. The pressure. The pressure." 

Unfortunatley, there will never be the iconic moment of seeing the M*A*S*H hit the airwaves for the very first time again. The good news is that iconic episode will never fade away. 

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MaryAnnArlotta 20 months ago
What bothered me about the way they wrote this ending was about Hawkey. He was a brilliant doctor who did so much for the show, why did he have to go thru this type of breakdown? They could have found some other dramatic story for him.
timothys71 20 months ago
Airing the MASH finale is a nice way for MeTV to celebrate Veterans' Day. They did that last year too, as I recall.
KV 20 months ago
At the time of the *M*A*S*H" finale I was working in TV Ad Sales. WE knew the rtgs were going t be high (remember, @ the time cable was in its infancy, and of course, there was no streaming). To estimate an audience rating, which determines the rate of an ad, one needed an example of a scripted show. If I remember, we used "Roots", which at the time, may have been the highest rated scripted show to date, and may have bumped it up just a bit. The M*A*S*H* Finale blew that number away.
MrsPhilHarris 20 months ago
I’m probably in the minority, but I never thought that kiss believable. Had it been Trapper yes, but Hawkeye, no.
Null88 MrsPhilHarris 20 months ago
Agreed. I didn't believe the two changed from cartoon characters to humans, in surgery or in life.
KendallMarine 20 months ago
MASH, one of my favorite shows of all time. It was good from season one through season eleven. My favorite episodes were with the original cast.
dmarkwind KendallMarine 20 months ago
I'm often surprised M*A*S*H survived its first two seasons! I understand the show was still finding its footing, establishing its characters, and deciding how to differentiate the TV series from the R-Rated movie, but in many of those early episodes, Hawkeye was far from the moral stalwart he would later be perceived as, and what passed for comedy in the first few seasons was little more than sexual harassment that wouldn't fly in the age of "Me Too." Other characters also acted in ways they never would have in later seasons. For example, there's an early episode in which Radar steals an Army jeep by sending it home in installments via the mail! Doesn’t seem in character for the shy and caring company clerk we get to know later. In the long view, M*A*S*H was a show that presented liberal ideas using very relatable characters in a comedy-drama setting and it appealed to people from across the political spectrum - even folks who would have never sat still to hear those ideas presented a different way.
DocForbin 20 months ago
It makes one wonder how much they charged for ads for other landmark TV moments like the final episode of "The Fugitive", the "Who Shot J. R.?" episode of "Dallas", Granny fighting that kangaroo on "The Beverly Hillbillies" and The Beatles' first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show". I guess someone will do the research on that someday.
Michael DocForbin 20 months ago
I always liked your movie.
RichLorn Michael 20 months ago
Indeed yes. It was a very forward-looking premise.
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