Seth MacFarlane following the announcement of the Academy Award nominations. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
The annual Academy Award telecast is a financial juggernaut for the ABC television network, which has worked behind the scenes to ensure that the program has commercial appeal that goes well beyond the art-house crowd.
Last year, more than 39 million viewers tuned into the Oscar show -- a healthy number after several years of viewership declines. Social media helped to create more buzz around Hollywood's glamorous event.
Advertising sales for the 85th Annual Academy Awards already have been robust with the Walt Disney Co.-owned network garnering substantial rate increases over last year. ABC is fetching as much as $1.85 million per 30-second spot for next month's show, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.
OSCARS 2013: Full coverage
The network has nearly sold out its advertising inventory for the telecast -- a particularly brisk pace for ad sales, these people said.
Last year the network received about $1.65 million to $1.7 million per 30-second spot. Advertising Age first reported ABC's strong ad sales.
The academy is taking a risk with its selection of comedian Seth MacFarlane, the creative force behind "Family Guy" and "Ted," as the Oscar host. Thursday morning, while he was announcing the award nominees, MacFarlane made a Hitler joke, which some critics found insensitive.
A few hours later, ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee expressed his enthusiasm for MacFarlane during the ABC network's presentation before the Television Critics Assn. in Pasadena.
"I think Seth is going to be fantastic," Lee said. "He is a great choice. He's a real performer, and I think he will be a breath of fresh air and bring a lot of energy to the show."
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