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Advertisers + live events = true love

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Madison Avenue hearts the Oscars.

ABC has sold out its allotment of commercials for Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast, with prices higher than last year at somewhere between $2 million-$2.5 million per 30-second spot.


That, despite the fact that Oscar viewership numbers have been unsteady over the years, with last year’s #OscarsSoWhite telecast hosted by Chris Rock hitting an eight-year low at 34.4 million.

Why? Advertisers are constantly on the lookout for live TV events, where viewers don’t have the same easy ability to skip over commercials. We tend to revert to old-school “appointment TV” viewing for the likes of the Oscars and the Super Bowl, without our magical power to time shift and fast forward.

In short, we’re sitting ducks.

Also appealing to advertisers: The live Oscars audience is generally affluent and tends to skew female, which is why it has been known over the years as “the Super Bowl for women.” As with the football event, advertisers try to impress with new ads — this year, for example, Walmart has hired directors such as Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (“This Is the End”) to direct its spots.

I have a feeling the Oscars audience numbers are going to be strong this year, thanks to the political climate. After the Golden Globes and the Grammys, it’s pretty clear that Hollywood is taking these mass events as an opportunity to voice concerns about the state of the union and President Trump.


The possibility of controversy — the kinds of acceptance speeches like the one delivered by Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes — only adds to audience anticipation and excitement. Are we going to see a viral moment unfold, one that will be tomorrow’s crazy obsession — I mean news? Are presidential tweets being created before our eyes?

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.

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