Oscars Gold – Part II

The Oscars
Image credit: ABC.

As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences begins final preparations for the 96th Academy Awardsthe Media C-Suite takes a brief look at the values, and value, of the Oscars.

In Part I of the Oscar Gold series, we looked at the values of the Academy itself within the context of today’s US$2.5 trillion global Media & Entertainment industry. Those values highlight the origins of Hollywood as a creative, technical and commercial collective enterprise with a business model based squarely in cinema and public perception of the “movies”. 

Part II

Adding Up the Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has grown from 36 founding members into a global collective of more than 10,000. 

For nearly a century, the Academy has quietly evolved in lock-step with the emergence of television, and now the internet, to promote the motion picture as the cornerstone of the global Media & Entertainment industry, with the box office as its legacy point of reference. In doing so, the Academy itself has amassed an impressive war chest with total assets of US$1.36 billion earned not from the box office receipts of its members’ creative product (per se), but from the rights to distribute its annual Academy Awards ceremony on television.

Few other global cultural events have attracted more attention, and thus money, than the Academy’s annual Oscar’s ceremony.

On the eve of the 96th annual Academy Awards, let’s take a brief look at several figures behind broadcasting the Oscars to a global audience and the effort to be this years’ featured attraction. 

US$1,037,887,000 (Tax Free)

Although not disclosed in detail, the Walt Disney Company, through ABC and Buena Vista International, pays the Academy a combination of license fees and royalties (derived from advertising revenues) to broadcast the Oscars to the world. The Academy reports revenues from these performance obligations in its audited Consolidated Financial Statements (as of end of June each year) as US$124.6 million in 2022, US$129.1 million in 2023 with a projected US$133.1 million for 2024.

In total, leading up the 100th anniversary of the Academy Awards, Disney is obligated to pay the US tax-exempt Academy not less than US$1 billion between 2021 and 2028, the year its broadcast licences through ABC and Buena Vista expire.

1 Billion Television Viewers

The Academy itself once boasted over 1 billion international viewers and continues to assert hundreds of millions unofficially, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The claim seems founded in an Associated Press article from 1985 in which AP Journalist Richard De Atley wrote that the 57th Academy Awards would be broadcast “live or on tape to an estimated audience of 1 billion in 77 countries, including first-time viewers in China and Poland.”

Airing annually to television audiences since 1953, this live, US “prime time” event officially captured the time of over 55 million people at its viewership height in 1998, according to rating agency figures, nearly 20% of the US population at the time.

The American audience for the 95th Academy Awards was an average of 19.9 million, up 8% from 2022’s Oscars.

US$120.3 Million

According to data reported by Variety, the average cost of a 30-second commercial during last year’s Academy Awards was US$1.85 million, down from US$1.95 million in 2022. Disney, which owns the broadcast rights to the Oscars via ABC and Buena Vista offers an average of sixty-five 30-second advertising spots for the ceremony, including the pre-Oscars coverage.

This years advertising inventory sold out just three days before the live event. Revenues, however, may improve this year with innovation. Disney has announced that TikTok will sponsor a “first-of-its-kind red-carpet live stream”.

US$500 Million

According to the BBC in 2016, Hollywood studios spent as much as US$10 million on promoting a film for Oscar contention in highly sophisticated For Your Consideration campaigns, with a top end industry estimate at US$500 million across all nominees. Variety reported in 2019 that the campaign for A Star is Born alone was nearly US$20 million, which was not unusual across its competition. 

According to data compiled by MediaRadar and as reported on advanced-television.com, the top five advertisers targeting the Academy’s nomination and voting for the 94th Academy Awards, Oscar campaigns totalled US$45 million, equal to 73 percent of the spend. These top five were AT&T, Amazon, MGM, Netflix and The Walt Disney Company. 

Lavish print ads in newspapers and magazines, primarily the “trades” including Variety and The Hollywood Reporter but also the Los Angeles Times, comprised between 72 and 86 percent of the total ad spend on Oscar contention since 2019.

8% Up

Viewership for the 95th Academy Awards, last year, was up 8% on the year before. According to figures from ABC, the 95th Oscars drew an average audience of 19.9 million total viewers across linear and digital platforms from the live+7 day measurement period.

Priceless

The 70th Academy Awards in 1998 saw James Cameron’s Titanic, distributed to cinemas by Paramount, dominate both the Box Office and the Academy Awards. The connection between a social experience in the cinema and seeing one of the highest-grossing box office films ever receive an Oscar for Best Picture was directly relevant to an official 55.3 million people, creating cultural reference for generations. 

This year’s nominations for the highly successful Barbie and Oppenheimer films may prove just as culturally relevant.

While statistics, and opinions, vary on the direct connection between Oscar gold and box office dollars, the publicity value of becoming a cultural reference is distinctly immeasurable.

In Part III of the Oscars Gold series, we’ll take a look at the lead up to the 100th anniversary of the Academy Awards in 2028, the year its long-running television license with Bob Iger’s Disney group expires.

Editor’s Note: This is an update to an article previously-published on December 7, 2022.

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