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Blockbusters, actors and outrage: Why the Oscars are poised for a big night.

An early sellout suggests renewed interest among advertisers, but the real draw may be the controversy

Denzel! Casey! Emma! Viola! The stars! The fashions! The hoopla! It’s “The 89th Annual Academy Awards,” live on ABC this Sunday, as an array of considerably more diversified faces compete for the coveted statuette.

Considering the audience erosion for the “Academy Awards” last year (34.3 million viewers in 2016 marked an eight year low and the third least-watched Oscars telecast ever), ABC must be relieved it has already sold out all commercial time for the festivities, which have been a network mainstay since 1976. This year, 30-second spots sold for a reported average $2 million, which is a rise from the $1.72 million tally per spot last year. The roster of advertisers will include AT&T, AARP, Adidas, Walmart, Samsung, McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch, FX, Geico, Revlon, The New York Times and Verizon.

Last year, #OscarSoWhite was the dominant hashtag on Twitter thanks to the total lack of non-white talent nominated for acting awards. This year, Viola Davis in “Fences” and Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight” are considered locks in the supporting acting categories, while “Fences” star Denzel Washington, competing for his third Oscar, is suddenly the favorite to win over “Manchester by the Sea’s” Casey Affleck. This year, seven of the 20 acting nominations went to people of color—a new and welcome record.

The trend toward inclusivity extends to the films this year, as well. Unlike recent years, when the frontrunners were little-scene pictures like “Spotlight,” “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virture of Ignorance)” and “12 Years a Slave,” this year’s expected Best Picture winner, “La La Land,” was an actual box office hit, raking in nearly $300 million in the US so far. If it wins, it would be the highest-grossing Best Picture winner since “The King’s Speech” in 2010.

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Written by Marc Berman

Marc Berman

Marc Berman has been writing professionally since 1999 and is the author of the “Mr. Television” for Campaign US ( Most recently, Berman was the creator and Editor-in-Chief of website and newsletter TV Media Insights for Cross MediaWorks. From 1999-2011, he was the Senior Editor for Mediaweek and has also written for The New York Daily News, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Emmy Magazine, among others. Berman has also appeared on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” “Inside Edition,” “The CBS Evening News,” E!, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC.

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