Boding well for the US advertising industry, ABC has sold all its ad time during coverage of this year's upcoming Academy Awards ceremony, albeit at lower prices than in 2001.

The announcement comes more than two weeks before the show's March 24 broadcast – comparing favourably with this year's Super Bowl, for which Fox was still selling spots a week before the event. Industry observers regard the sell-out as another sign that the ad slump may be easing.

"It's an indication that there is some strength in the marketplace," OMD USA's managing partner Dan Rank commented. His agency has bought around 40% of Oscars ad time on behalf of clients such as PepsiCo and J C Penney.

Although Mike Shaw, president of sales and marketing at Disney-owned ABC, would not disclose prices, more talkative media buyers put the cost of a 30-second spot at around $1.1 million to $1.3m (€1.25m–€1.48m; £0.77m–£0.92m), down slightly from $1.4m twelve months ago.

This year has also seen a number of new players break the dominance of traditional Academy Award advertisers such as American Express, which has cut its ad activity during the show from three minutes last year to 60 seconds. Among the firms making their Oscars debut are MasterCard International and United Parcel Service.

The ceremony – broadcast on ABC since 1976 – remains one of the most-watched shows on US television, despite a slight slip in ratings last year to 42.9m from 46.3m in 2000, and is considered an excellent way to reach a female audience.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff