Disney paid itself $10 million for ‘The Little Mermaid’ Oscars moment

Or like five times the cost of a 30-second commercial at the 95th Oscars.

Oscar winners may not have appreciated the revealing moment of the “Little Mermaid” trailer from the Oscars stage, but ABC’s advertising sales team did.

The network offered each movie studio a sponsored integration opportunity where actors associated with their brands could come out to the Oscars and talk about a project before promoting it. Only Disney Studios and Warner Bros. took them up on the offer. In fact, this was the third year of sponsored integration at the Oscars, which airs annually on ABC.

Disney went big, bringing out the upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid stars Halle Bailey (who plays Ariel) and Melissa McCarthy (Ursula) for the official trailer for the film. After a short time on stage, the Oscars went to an announced commercial break at the Dolby Theater (all commercial breaks are announced to allow the audience to stretch their legs, use the bathroom, etc.), and the two-minute, 20-second trailer for the home for viewers.

The preview was not played in the room, which caused a moment of confusion for those present in person, several Oscar guests told IndieWire about this story. Watch the trailer for “The Little Mermaid” here.

Later in the program, Morgan Freeman and Margot Robbie took the Dolby stage to present Warner Bros.’s paid integration, a 90-second celebration of the studio’s 100th anniversary. Readers can view this story towards the bottom.

Matt Belloni from Puck on Tuesday was reported the commercial purchase and integration cost Disney and Warner Bros. “$7-10 million”. That’s about right for Disney, a person familiar with the business told IndieWire; “is a long way” from the shorter Warner Bros. spot, an insider told us.

Halle Bailey as Ariel and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric in Disney's live action "The Little Mermaid"

Halle Bailey as Ariel and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid.

Courtesy of Disney

It’s basically math. Standard 30-second commercials for the 2023 Oscars sold for between $1.6 million and $2.1 million, a person familiar with the sales told IndieWire. Each integration raised these points. (We said that the trailer and the WB ceremony didn’t actually extend the Oscars telecast—at least not its commercial time. The stage time was basically thrown in as a free incentive to gobble up more consecutive spots. )

For Disney Studios, “The Little Mermaid” used five 30-second slots, which is said to have been at the upper end of its price range for general ad inventory. Add in premium placement and valuable stage time, and $10 million is entirely conceivable. (You might even say it’s “reasonable” given how much we remember the moment, as opposed to a random ad for a consumer product.)

Still, that’s a lot of money and a big chunk of “The Little Mermaid’s” total marketing budget. It probably makes it more digestible when you consider that the Walt Disney Company owns both the studio behind “The Little Mermaid” and the Academy Award-winning ABC broadcast network — financial synergy! An insider told us that no hometown discount was given here, and that the two entities are considered “church and state.” Actual money actually changed hands, the person said — not “funny money,” as one outsider suggested — like any other advertiser in any program. Either way, the medicine is sure to go down a lot easier if you share a scale.

Warner Bros., on the other hand, used three slots, so simple math would suggest that they paid close to the $7 million Belloni reported. However, another insider at Warner Bros. told IndieWire that the contract was “significantly less than half” of the reported low price, or about $3 million. However, we can’t come close to doing the math, and an outside source called that price tag “inaccurate,” so make up your own mind.

Here’s the Warner Bros. location:


Either way, the show’s advertisers got what they paid for. The 95th Academy Awards drew a total of 18.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen, a 12 percent increase from last year, the largest audience for the awards ceremony in three years.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” won best picture and six other awards: best director and best original screenplay for writer-director duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, best actress for Michelle Yeoh, best supporting actress for Jamie Lee Curtis, Best Supporting Actor Ke Huy Quan and Best Film Editing.

The full list of winners can be found here; IndieWire’s coverage of the 2023 Oscars can be found here.

The Little Mermaid will be released in theaters on May 26.

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