Oscars sells out ad inventory despite awards show ratings declines

An Oscar statue stands during a preview for the Governors Ball during the 91st annual Academy Awards week in Hollywood, on California, February 15, 2019.

Valerie Macon | AFP | Getty Images

Disney Advertising Sales said Thursday it’s sold out of ad inventory for the 93rd Oscars telecast on ABC this Sunday.

The show, which typically airs in February or early March, was pushed back by organizers to air on April 25 because of pandemic restrictions and safety concerns. 

Despite stagnating ratings and production that caters to pandemic safety, advertisers are still turning to the Oscars. Brands like Verizon and Expedia will be running major new campaigns on Sunday’s broadcast. They’re joined by General Motors’ Cadillac, which will run ads for its first electric crossover vehicle, Lyriq, Ad Age reported earlier this week

Other advertisers will include Google, Rolex, Airbnb, Apple, P&G, Panera, Subway and more.

Ratings for awards shows had been slipping even before the pandemic. Viewership for last year’s Oscars dropped 20% to a new low, with only 23.6 million watching, according to Nielsen. The Emmys and Grammys both saw viewership declines as well. 

Oscars 2021 coverage from CNBC

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The realities of the pandemic, which have led shows to try out socially distanced formats, have created additional struggles. The Golden Globe Awards ceremony in late February, for instance, was rife with technical hiccups. 

According to Kantar Media, the average cost of a 30-second spot in the ceremony in 2020 was $2.15 million, an increase of 9% from 2019. The company said the ceremony perennially creates more ad revenue for ABC than any other day in the year, with $129 million spent by sponsors in 2020. 

Kantar said despite dwindling viewership and the pandemic’s impact on the economy, ABC hasn’t made major changes to ad pricing. ABC is seeking $2 million for 30 seconds on this year’s broadcast, it said. 

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