Cheap Cable Advertising on a Tight Budget

Yes, there is such a thing as cheap cable advertising

Man holding remote watching TV mounted on wall

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Cable advertising comes in many forms. The local breaks you see on channels like MTV, ESPN, and Lifetime are the kind most people think of first. But with fees to produce your commercial and airtime rates, a series of commercials on cable can cost a fortune, even in smaller markets.

Most small business owners don't have thousands of dollars to bank on a series of TV commercials, but a budget of less than $10 a day might be more doable. There are other ways to reach cable subscribers that are often overlooked. 

Option #1: Cable Crawls

Cable crawls are that scrolling text you see at the bottom of the screen on news channels. These are some of the most affordable ads you can purchase.

The Weather Channel ad crawls have been advertising businesses for over 20 years. Surprisingly, though, ad rates for crawls have remained very low.

Rates depend on your city's size, of course. Ad rates on a Chicago cable system are going to be higher than those in a suburban Georgia system.

Crawls run every 10 minutes during the local forecast, beginning with the eighth minute of the hour: 11:08, 11:18, 11:28, 11:38, 11:48, and 11:58. 

The Benefits of Cable Crawls

You should experience high viewership for low rates with this type of advertising. Some cable companies offer crawl advertising on The Weather Channel at a daily rate. Most ads will run at least 24 times in one day. Whenever a viewer checks out the local forecast and tunes in on the 8th minute...there's your crawl.

Another advantage is that you don't have to be a copywriting genius to prepare this type of ad. You're allowed a certain number of characters, just like for a newspaper ad. Keep it simple. A few words about your company, the company name, your phone number, and a website address can be very effective.

Here's an example: Joe's Heating and Air. 24-hour emergency service. No extra service charge. Call Joe's Heating and Air. 555-4200 or visit

Crawls are also very convenient to change. Everything is handled through the computer at the cable company so altering a line in your ad is as simple as picking up the phone to call your cable sales rep. Changes take effect immediately.

Option #2: Full-Screen Ads

Most cable companies have community channels that feature full-screen graphics from local businesses. Like crawls, they usually require only minimal production costs.

Your local community channel might feature your business info over a graphic or use a picture of your company's business. Your text is added to the graphic or photo and displayed on the community channel among other ads.

The Drawbacks of Full-Screen Ads

This is one of the least expensive ways to advertise on cable, but you'll have a very limited audience. This channel on your cable is set up solely for these types of ads. There's no programming. A viewer would have to elect to sit there and watch ads for yours to be effective.

You face the possibility that the only people watching are those who are looking for their own ads.

Option #3: Above-Program Listings

Advertising on the TV Guide Channel provides you with another way to combine graphics and your message in a low-cost form of advertising. The cable company will send someone out to take pictures of your store and products. Your message and pictures will then appear on the upper half of the TV Guide Channel screen as people tune in to find out what's on television tonight.

You'll have more viewers than you will on a full-screen ad, but you'll pay for it. The cost for an above-program listing ad is roughly 50% higher. But you'll have more space to play with than you would on a crawl, and you'll be able to add graphics or images.

The Bottom Line

  • You can advertise your company on a tight budget through cable, no matter what form of advertising you choose.
  • Each cable company has sales reps who can help you figure out which method will work best for you.
  • There's no rule that says you can't advertise outside your local viewing area. This works best for internet companies that aren't limited by locale. Research cable companies all over the country to find markets with rates that suit you and start down the path of low-cost, effective cable advertising.