By Lynette Rice
Updated November 15, 2011 at 03:16 PM EST
Jordan Strauss/

“Just how valuable is Bill Crystals to the Oscars?

ABC is about to find out, as it has opted to charge up to $1.7 million per 30 second spot for an ad in the annual telecast, according to Ad Age. Though it may seem like a rich price to peddle products during the mammoth show, that’s actually on par with what ABC charged during last year’s (dreadful) telecast, when Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted the festivities. The show ended up averaging 37.9 million viewers, down from the previous year when The Hurt Locker dominated in front of 41.7 million people.

Tune-in for the Academy Awards might have spiked had Eddie Murphy hosted the show, but the Tower Heist star walked away from the gig after his buddy Brett Ratner gave up the privilege to executive produce. Now Crystal, an eight-time host and favorite in the industry, will return to do the heavy lifting.

Though the Oscars continue to attract lots of attention — boy, that Ratner story was the gift that kept on giving — it still doesn’t command the kind of rates that are charged during the Super Bowl. Fox snagged up to $3 million per spot for this year’s matchup, and Ad Age says NBC could nab as much as $3.5 million for the 2012 game. Ultimately, the popularity of the Oscars ends up hinging on the best picture nominations — not whether Crystal’s opening number tops his previous gags (but give it your best shot, big guy).

For more:

The Oscar mess: Who will bear the brunt of the fallout?

New Oscar host: Who will Brian Grazer choose?

Brian Grazer replacing Brett Ratner as new Oscar producer