Fatty Emmys need nips and tucks

The Emmy Awards skyrocketed in the esteem of Michael Chiklis and Jennifer Aniston on Sunday night.

After all, thanks to a little statue of plated gold, the winners are no longer just “actors.” Now, they’re “Emmy-winning actors.”

That sounds just a little sweeter the next time they’re introduced on Leno or Letterman. For the moment, Chiklis, Aniston and company are Emmy’s biggest fans.

Too bad the toppers at ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox don’t share that enthusiasm.

Even with uber-attorney Ken Ziffren at their side, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences won’t easily convince the four nets to significantly increase the $4 million license fee they pay to carry the annual telecast.

Webheads treat the Emmys with the same kind of ambivalence they might treat an estranged sibling. Sure, they’re part of the family, but that’s the only reason why they’re still on speaking terms.

The reasons behind that general disdain–including TV’s own inferiority complex–have been analyzed to death. Regardless of the root cause, the nets aren’t entering negotiations with any desire to give Emmy the same kind of cash they give the Oscars (almost $40 million) and the Grammys (between $20 million to $25 million).

And Sunday night’s show, while scoring high in the Nielsen contest, didn’t make the kind of waves that would have made the webheads stand up and pour money into the TV academy coffers.

Before handing the webs their final proposal, the TV academy ought to shake things up and perhaps strengthen their position by dramatically altering the primetime showcase.

For starters, maybe it’s time to take the movies and miniseries awards out of the main event.

Attention, HBO staffers, don’t send those nasty emails just yet. Hear this out: By taking the longform awards out of the regular Primetime Emmy ceremony, the Academy could reward TV movies and miniseries–which have seen a true creative renaissance in recent years–with a special awards show to call their own.

Sound a little better? Not only would movie-intensive cablers like HBO and Turner stand to benefit from the visibility that comes with having a separate awards show, but the TV academy would get a chance to collect a second license fee for another gala kudofest.

With a huge boost of feature-level star power, and the possibility of basic cablers bidding to televise this Emmycast, the show could become an additional moneymaker for the org.

Meanwhile, broadcast webheads would welcome the move. While they remain an important part of the television landscape, the movie and mini awards increasingly feel out of place in the three-hour-plus telecast.

As the TV longform business has changed dramatically, the broadcast webs have signficantly cut the quantity of their original productions. Net chiefs frequently complain that televising those awards has become akin to giving cable services like HBO free advertising time.

Granted, the longform categories attract big-name names like Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, who add a touch of feature sparkle on stage. But this is television’s night, and the rush to include big feature names only reminds net execs that Emmy doesn’t carry the same weight as Oscar.

And with all those longform trophies to give out, in addition to the parade of major series categories, the Emmys also stuff more categories into primetime than the Oscars or the Grammys.

While the Emmys do nothing but hand out awards, the kudocast’s film and music cousins break up the trophy monotony with performances and other off-the-cuff moments.

So why not win a few points with broadcasters by cutting the telepic and miniseries awards? Now there’s a concept Academy officials and TV execs can agree on: a shorter telecast and more room for entertainment.

(Michael Schneider is a Television Editor and reporter for Variety)

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