Oscars Advertisers Pay Record Rate for Fewest Viewers Since 2008

  • Average price per 1,000 viewers up 18% from 2015's show
  • Oscar ad rates more expensive than other live-event broadcasts

Sponsors of the Academy Awards broadcast Sunday night on Walt Disney Co.’s ABC network may have received the least bang for their buck ever.

Oscars advertisers paid the highest rates per viewer in at least a decade to reach the award show’s smallest audience since 2008, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of data from Nielsen and Kantar Media. The average price per 1,000 viewers for a 30-second spot at the 88th Academy Awards was $58.10, up 18 percent from 2015, data show. By comparison, sponsors of this year’s Super Bowl on CBS paid less than $44.68 per 1,000 viewers to reach an audience of 111.9 million.

This is the second year of record-high ad prices and declining viewership for the Oscars. ABC said the audience totaled 34.4 million viewers for the telecast hosted by Chris Rock, down 8 percent from a year earlier.

“This is not a good number,” said Mike Bernacchi, a professor of marketing at the University of Detroit Mercy. “Advertisers have to be concerned about this.”

Sunday night’s Oscars ratings were the lowest since 32 million tuned in to watch “No Country for Old Men” win best picture in 2008 -- and a 21 percent drop from the 43.7 million who watched the Ellen DeGeneres-hosted Oscars in 2014.

A spokesperson for ABC couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton, actress Jada Pinkett Smith and other celebrities had urged a boycott of the Oscars after the Academy announced an all-white slate of acting nominees for the second-straight year. President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy’s first African-American leader, said in a pre-show interview that the group is taking initiatives to promote diversity within its voting body.

Television ads during the Oscars, one of the most-watched TV shows of the year, were already costlier than others. The estimated cost for a 30-second Oscars spot was $2 million this year, according to Kantar, which has kept Oscar ad-spending data since 2006. That compares with about $1 million for an ad during CBS Corp.’s Grammy Awards, which reached 25 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

The Oscars command a higher price per viewer than a $5 million Super Bowl spot because of the audience, said Tim Calkins, professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“There’s the element of celebrity and glamor that is very different than the Super Bowl,” Calkins said.

Bernacchi added that the show’s target audience is “older, wealthier, well-educated white women.”

Squarespace Inc., a first-time Academy Awards advertiser which also ran spots in the Golden Globes, Super Bowl and Grammy Awards this season, said it’s too early to measure the commercial’s success, but was “very pleased” with initial reaction to the ad despite the show’s controversy or viewership. The website building and hosting service didn’t negotiate a multi-year contract as an Oscars advertiser.

“We judge the success of each of our ad campaigns on various criteria -- it’s not always about ratings or PR for us,” Chief Creative Officer David Lee said.

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