Best Oscar award: The price of a 30-second commercial

Years ago a producer I know wanted to produce the ultimate TV award show: a show about award shows. It didn’t get off the ground, but the premise was a correct one – there was an increasingly growing supply, and all made lots of money.

Even the smallest of cable networks do it, not only giving them some glamour cache, but to ink some quick high profit margins to their balance sheets. Hopefully if you have Bruce Vilanch writing some jokes, you’ll have a few yuks as well.

Viewership is another issue. The growing demand for award shows has meant lower overall ratings for just about all shows that give out honors. It’s a supply and demand issue that doesn’t quit – so far.

Watering down entertainment with more awards means there is probably increasingly less talent, movies, music, and programming that actually deserves recognition. Of course, this just doesn’t go for TV itself, consumer magazines and other media regularly give out awards as a way to sell more advertising pages.



As with anything, too much of a good thing leads to lethargy. And as today’s New York Times story points out, big time movie, TV, and music stars are so available now on TV and elsewhere, that they have lost their on-screen value. 

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but from a talent agent’s perspective, in this increasingly entertainment-glutted environment, they are out of sight, out of mind.

To break through the sea of trophies, the Academy Awards – the crown jewel of award shows, which airs this weekend on ABC, will spice things up with the verbally dangerous Chris Rock as its host.  (Janet Jackson, look out).

Awards shows – like any other TV program -- need to be ‘cast,’ so to speak.  And as an award show producer, you better not get “B” level presenting talent – read: ‘boring.’ Leave that to second- and third-tier daytime syndicated talk shows.

Despite losing some ground in ratings, the Academy Awards – more than any other award show -- improved in the one area that matters most: money.

The press routinely misses out on this bigger picture financial factor. While ratings have been lower, the Oscar broadcast on ABC has seen regular price hikes for over a decade or more – now at $1.6 million for a 30-second spot. Other shows, such as “The Grammys” have also seen commercial price hikes, despite some ratings slippage. Even the sinking Emmys still makes tens of millions of dollars.

The real awards? The Oscars sweep easily.  Now, where’s the after-party?

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