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Emmycast may shift

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences board was meeting Monday evening to vote on amending its broadcast deal to allow all four networks back into the process of televising the Prime Time Emmy Awards.

The change, if approved, would create a rotating broadcast format among the Big Three networks and Fox Broadcasting Co., prematurely ending a four-year exclusive arrangement with ABC that practically resulted in open warfare being waged against the Academy by the left-out networks.

The Primetime Emmys aired on a rotating base among ABC, CBS and NBC from the mid-1960s until 1987, when Fox inked the first of two exclusive deals to televise the awards.

The expectation was that a rotating agreement would supplant the second Fox pact, but ATAS surprised the networks — particularly officials at CBS and NBC — by opting for an exclusive deal with ABC valued at roughly $ 11 million over its length, more than 25% higher than the $ 2.1 million-per-year license fee agreed to by the networks as a group.

Angry CBS and NBC officials retaliated by boycotting last year’s Emmy ceremony (the first televised by ABC under the agreement), refusing to provide personnel to staff the event and aggressively counter-programming opposite the telecast. The show delivered a 13.6 rating, 21 share in Nielsen, lower than the previous year’s results on Fox. By contrast, the previous five network telecasts , from 1982-86, averaged a 19.7/33.

Web execs objected to the Emmys, an all-industry event, becoming what they felt was a promotional platform for one network, pointing out that ABC was airing the show on the eve of the new TV season specifically to tout its programs.

Academy veterans were nevertheless puzzled by the vehement response of the other networks, noting that the Emmys aired 11 consecutive years on NBC from the mid-1950s into the ’60s.

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