The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has officially revealed changes the org is considering for its Primetime Emmy Awards, including shifting four longform and three variety/music/comedy categories to the lower-profile Creative Arts ceremony.
Decisions are still up in the air — no vote took place at the org’s board meeting Wednesday night — but the TV Academy’s board of governors continues to mull recommendations made by two committees looking to revamp the ratings-starved kudocast.
ATAS chairman Dick Askin explained the proposed plan — aimed at reducing the number of awards presented during the main show — during a Thursday morning press conference at the org’s North Hollywood HQ.
As suspected (Daily Variety, March 7), longform kudos for writing, directing, supporting actress and supporting actor are on the chopping block, as are variety/music/comedy trophies for performer, writing and directing.
New to the table is an idea to combine the movie and miniseries categories into one longform award — which would, if approved, represent yet another blow to cable networks like HBO (which took home both top prizes last year), Showtime, TNT and FX, which still actively invest in the format.
But Askin said the shift would be consistent with how the other longform awards are distributed, encompassing both minis and made-fors.
Other suggestions include reviving the new-series trophy — last handed out in 1973 — and moving the reality series award from the Creative Arts to the main ceremony. Acad has been looking for ways to make the reality genre more prominent, last year introducing the reality/competition series category, honoring shows that center on participants competing for a prize.
Board of governors is expected to vote on the matter during next month’s meeting, after which ATAS will begin conversations with the guilds and networks to iron out details. Leaders of the DGA and WGA already fired off a memo Tuesday to Askin, warning against a proposed move of awards to the Creative Arts show.
“For the Academy to deny the role of the key creative talent in genres which have traditionally offered some of the best programs on television would seem to be an abdication of the Academy’s raison d’etre,” DGA prexy Michael Apted and WGA West topper Daniel Petrie Jr. wrote in the letter.
ATAS decided to investigate ways to overhaul the Primetime Emmys (Daily Variety, Jan. 19), including relocating some of the 27 awards (not including the Bob Hope Humanitarian award) to the Creative Arts show, after the kudofest suffered ratings declines in September.
“The goal is to bring back to the board our final recommendations that we’ve come up with through a fairly exhaustive process,” Askin said, noting the Acad has not taken a critical look at the format since 1981.
Long-term, he said, the Acad will work on reforming the content, production and marketing of the show.
Some insiders suggest the impetus for reworking the kudocast has come about because broadcast webs, which are sharing the hefty $52 million license fee, are still irked that HBO dominates the majority of the awards on the main show.
But Askin stressed, “No one peer group has been singled out.” In addition, winners in shifted categories will be worked into the main show; guest actor award winners, for example, receive their trophy at the Creative Arts ceremony but are introduced as winners and presented at the main ceremony.
Changes were hatched by a pair of task forces appointed by the Academy, representing a cross section of peer groups and industryites, which have been working on energizing the format of the show. ABC alternative/latenight topper Andrea Wong and Primetime Emmy Awards show chair Maura Dunbar head the committees.
“There is a unanimous feeling for change,” Dunbar said.
Both groups have been poring over mountains of research and viewer feedback, according to Askin, who referred to that feedback as the org’s “guiding wisdom” moving forward.
“In order to make the show more compelling, we have to pay attention to its relativity and appeal. We know we can’t make everyone happy,” he said. Making the show longer — the Oscars run 3½ hours — is out the question.
Askin said he’d been “very disappointed” with the Emmys from both a ratings and a creative standpoint. “I don’t think we’ve been as viewer-friendly as we could be. The show over time has become a series of awards without breathing room for other elements” such as clip packages.
The list is still tentative. “We have alternative ideas for some of these proposals. This is not an all-or-nothing (situation),” Askin said.