Why Oscar Commercials Are Selling For Record Prices

The Academy Awards are kind of a big deal. Studios produce films specifically in the hopes of winning an Oscar. Networks often air reruns rather than go up against the Oscars. Viewers sit in front of their screens and root for whatever movies they’ve actually seen to take the top prize. It’s an extravaganza of glitz and glamour and outfits that are certain to make “best” or “worst” lists in the morning. Whether you care about them or not, the Oscars are definitely important. That’s why potential buyers are willing to shell out the big bucks for small windows of ad time. Despite a ratings decline, ABC is asking for higher prices than ever for ad time… and buyers are willing to pay.

Variety reports that ABC has raised the price for a 30-second commercial spot during the 2016 Academy Awards to as high as $2.2 million. Although buyers who bartered for screentime earlier this year paid a lower sum of $1.8 million to $2 million, ABC looks to sell out available ad time for the next Oscar broadcast in the higher price range.

Raising the price so drastically comes as something of a surprise, as the 2015 Academy Awards hosted by Neil Patrick Harris dropped by nearly 6 million viewers to the lowest audience turnout since 2010. Buyers, however, seem to be looking more at the bigger picture than at the basic numbers.

Broadcast television overall has fluctuated in recent years as viewers begin to turn to alternate methods of viewing than live on their couch in front of their TVs. Audiences are more scattered now than ever before. Ad buyers willing to shell out the money to reach a massive audience – even one that can rise or fall by millions from year to year – will have far greater reach than spending the same amount for advertising spread out over different broadcast slots. Quality over quantity has become the name of the game nowadays, and ABC is certainly hoping to reap the benefits with the spiked prices for Oscar commercial slots.

It’s also worth noting the Oscar audiences tend to be larger when the films being featured are blockbuster or at least high profile projects rather than independent films, and this has been a big year for movies. Although the biggest earners such as Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron are not likely to take home any of the main prizes, the special effects may well earn them nominations to draw in audiences who might not usually tune in, and critically acclaimed films like The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road have had high enough profiles that a Best Picture nomination could be particularly enticing to general audiences.

We’ll have to wait and see what films get the prizes and which actresses wear the most scandalous dresses, but ABC certainly has an evening full of advertisements already set in motion at prices higher than any in recent years.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.