Oscar Ads Sell Out, Hyundai Pulls Some Jeff Bridges Voiceovers

Ad rates jump to $1.7 million per 30-second spot, while Hyundai says it won’t run ads featuring the Best Actor nominee’s voice

Last Updated: February 16, 2011 @ 10:55 PM

The Oscars are sold out.

We're not talking about tickets to the show (those were never really on sale to begin with), but about advertising spots on the telecast. ABC has confirmed that all available commercial space has been purchased for the 83rd Oscar show and the expanded 90-minute pre-show, with rates reportedly reaching as high as $1.7 million for each 30-second spot.

Jeff BridgesAnd several of those spots have gone to the show's sole automotive sponsor, Hyundai – which, as it did last year, is altering some of its commercials to avoid running afoul of Academy rules.

The $1.7 million cost is a significant jump over the prices charged by ABC for the past two years, when Oscar ads ran between $1.3 and $1.5 million per 30 seconds. The highest price the network charged came in 2008, when ads went for $1.82 million.

This year's rate hike comes on the heels of strong ratings for last year's Oscar show, which attracted 41.6 million viewers, and comes as the Academy has begun talks with the network about an extension of the AMPAS/ABC contract to broadcast the awards.

Ads on the Oscar telecast are restricted to about a half hour's worth over the three-plus hour running time of the show, which gives the broadcast far fewer ads than a usual primetime show. The Academy also imposes restrictions on what can be promoted during the show: two years ago, for instance, marked the first time AMPAS relaxed its rules to allow limited movie advertising during the Oscars.

Commercial spots for nominated movies, though, are still forbidden. Commercials featuring nominees, performers or presenters can appear on the show, but not within an hour of the announcement of the nominee's category, or an hour of the presenter's appearance.

Last year, this created problems for Hyundai, which took over from longtime automobile sponsor General Motors in 2009. Jeff Bridges (above), a Best Actor nominee (and winner) for "Crazy Heart," provided an uncredited voiceover on the automaker's commercials – and rather than carefully try to slot all of those commercials around Bridges' appearance on the show, Hyundai re-recorded the commercials using a variety of other voices, including David Duchovny and Catherine Keener.

Bridges is once again a Best Actor nominee, this time for "True Grit." A Hyundai spokesperson confirmed to TheWrap that the company, which has nine spots on the show and pre-show, will use non-Bridges voiceovers on ads that air within an hour of the Best Actor presentation.

CLARIFICATION: The original version of this story said that none of Hyundai's Oscar ads would feature Jeff Bridges' voice. A spokesperson for the company said that to adhere to Academy regulations, ads surrounding the Best Actor presentation will indeed not use Bridges — but that other Hyundai ads in the show and pre-show might do so, although the company's plans have not yet been finalized.