Oscars advertising makes a comeback

After taking a hit during the recession, the award show is again luring top prices from companies that want exposure to the massive audience.

By Aimee Picchi Jan 11, 2013 3:08PM

Image: File photo of Oscar statues at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. (© Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)The Oscars broadcast has long been the also-ran to the winter's bigger television spectacle, the Super Bowl. 

That was doubly true during the recession, when advertising rates for the Academy Awards broadcast were slow to recover, yet the Super Bowl's rates jumped more than 15% between 2008 to 2011.

But now the Oscars have turned a corner, reports Advertising Age. The broadcast is once again in the spotlight with advertisers, fetching as much as $1.8 million for a 30-second spot during the 2013 broadcast, which will air on Walt Disney's (DIS) ABC on Feb. 24th. 


That price is at last approaching rates last seen around 2008, when the awards show drew about $1.82 million per spot. But this year, ABC is actually testing whether latecomers might pay as much as $2 million for one of the last few spots, with the network on the verge of selling out of inventory. 

"We haven't been this well sold, this early, in over a decade," Debbie Richman, an advertising executive at ABC, tells AdAge. 

While an economic recovery is helping to open marketers' pocketbooks, the Oscars is paradoxically getting some help from the poor state of television viewing. 

That's because live broadcasts such as the Oscars ceremony and the Super Bowl are increasingly valuable to marketers, given that more TV viewers are taping shows, skipping through ads and even tuning out. Three of the top four broadcasters have shed millions of viewers in the current television season. 

Ratings for the show often depend on the popularity of the nominated movies: when "Titanic" was nominated in 1997 for Best Picture (and won), 55 million viewers watched the broadcast. When the less popular "Chicago" won in 2003, the show only drew 33 million viewers. 

This year, nine movies are battling to win the Best Picture award, from Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" to the independent movie "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

This year's host may widen the audience: "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, known for his irreverent humor. 

So far, sponsors for the Oscars include tech companies such as Apple (AAPL), while long-time supporters such as JC Penney (JCP) are also likely to return, AdAge notes.

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