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ABC Sells Out Ad Inventory for Oscars

Oscar Statuette Generic Art - H 2013
Getty Images

Thirty-second spots went for as much as $1.8 million, up slightly compared to last year.

ABC has unloaded all of its advertising inventory for the 85th Annual Academy Awards, which will be broadcast live on Feb. 24. The network has been booking up to $1.8 million for a 30-second spot, up slightly compared to last year's $1.7 million.

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Jay Rasulo, senior executive vp and CFO of The Walt Disney Company, told reporters and analysts on the company’s earnings call Tuesday that this year’s Oscar-cast achieved its best selling pace in more than a decade, with most spots sold out by Christmas. ABC has yet to reveal which advertisers have booked spots in this year’s show, but traditional sponsors JC Penney and Hyundai are expected to be back again this year, while AdAge reports that tech rivals Samsung and Apple also have purchased spots.

The Academy raised eyebrows when it selected Seth MacFarlane, known for risque animated comedies on Fox, to host this year’s telecast. And that unorthodox choice may have generated more interest in the show this year. Last year, perennial Oscar host Billy Crystal stepped in after the sudden departures of host Eddie Murphy and producer Brett Ratner. The 2012 telecast was watched by 39.3 million viewers, up less than four percent compared to the previous year. And while the Oscars are among the handful of live-event telecasts that can still bring in large audiences, Oscar tune-in has been tied to the box-office muscle of the nominated films.

In 1997, when the television landscape was far less fractured, 55 million viewers watched James Cameron’s Titanic take home best picture and best director Oscars. When No Country for Old Men won in 2008, only 32 million watched. In an effort to cast a wider net, the Academy in 2009 expanded the field of nominated films for best picture to 10 and two years ago revised the rule so that anywhere from five to 10 films can be nominated. This year, there are nine best picture nominees: Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Argo, The Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amour and Silver Linings Playbook.

Like the Super Bowl, the Oscars have become a showcase for advertisers, which spend heavily on creative and often use the annual Hollywood awards show to launch new product campaigns. That said, pricing and tune-in for the Super Bowl still far exceed the Oscars. More than 108 million viewers watched this year’s Super Bowl on CBS, and 30-second spots went for north of $4 million.