The numbers are in: This year’s Academy Awards drew the lowest audience ever with just 9.85 million viewers, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen. That’s down 58% from last year’s overnight ratings, which were at an all-time low.
Despite signs that ratings would be down following poor showings for the Golden Globes and the Grammys, as well as the lack of commercially successful films among the nominees, advertisers still shilled out millions for spots during the ceremony.
A 30-second spot during the awards show cost about $2 million, according to data firm Kantar Media, and ABC sold out of ad inventory. The cost is in line with last year when the ceremony, including the red carpet, brought in $150 million in advertising revenue for ABC. With the commercial time of the program holding steady over the past five years, it can be expected that that number will be about the same this year.
“Any program that brings reach these days is a scarce commodity,” says Jim Spaeth of ad measurement firm Sequent Partners.
Ratings for the awards ceremony dwindle each year, but advertisers are willing to spend more than ever, desperate for their products to be seen amid a fractured viewing environment that increasingly includes ad-free streaming services. Since 2016, the show’s viewership has fallen 70%, but the price of a 30-second ad has increased by 25%, according to Kantar’s data.
“I don’t think they are ecstatic about it,” Sequent Partners’ Alice Sylvester says of the advertisers’ take on the ratings. “But there is a cache associated with the content itself, and marketers that want and appreciate that will want to be there regardless of the size of the audience,” she added, noting the benefits of aligning a brand with a high-brow, celebrity event.
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There’s also the fact that a number of the advertisers are tied up in long-term sponsorship deals. Brands like Cadillac and Rolex are generally among the leads in ad spend at the Oscars; in recent years, the two have each spent more than $10 million in advertising for the night, according to Kantar. Deciding not to advertise this year may make it harder for brands to get a good deal next year, when ratings could jump up.
“I bet there will be tremendous pent up demand,” Spaeth. “People will be so excited to be out and about and go to the movies.”
The official ratings for the Oscars, including viewers across time-zones, will be released by ABC tomorrow.