Standing on the podium with Emmy in hand and addressing your colleagues would rank as a career highlight among any TV professional.
But what does it bring, in practical terms? Higher ratings? More offers? More zeros on paychecks? Additional ad sales for the network? Or is the prestige of a win enough?
“Winning an Emmy is a stamp of approval,” says William Shatner, who won consecutive Emmys for “The Practice” and “Boston Legal” in 2004 and ’05, respectively. “It’s ‘Prime Meat,’ it’s four stars. And when you’re stamped four stars by your peers, then your peers really do think you’re four star.”
And acknowledgement of one’s peers is certainly something to celebrate, an occasion networks make sure to do after an Emmy win. Nets use the win as a marketing tool to help promote a show.
“An Emmy win is a status conferral — that if a show has won, then it must be good, and therefore allows us to say that it’s good,” says John Miller, NBC’s chief marketing officer.
Most such marketing takes place in the form of on-air and print promotion — sometimes for three to four months after the ceremony — as well as congratulatory trade ads.
“When Patricia Arquette won for ‘Medium,’ we highlighted it through most of the fall, but then the show was off because of the Olympics,” Miller notes. “And when it came back, we highlighted it once again, because it was an opportunity to remind viewers that the show had been honored with an Emmy.”
On-air promotion helps drive home the message of quality to potential viewers.
“Viewers are looking for quality experiences, and having Emmy wins is one of the seals of approval,” notes Gary Newman, president of 20th Century Fox Television, which produces “Boston Legal.” “In a marketplace that is as crowded as it is with so many alternatives for viewers, anything that sends a message to viewers that your show is a quality show, or has a star who’s receiving awards, helps distinguish it in the marketplace, and hopefully gives you a better chance of breaking through the clutter and getting people to find your show.”
But does broadcast promotion of an Emmy win translate into higher ratings?
“It’s a little bit like impulse buying,” Newman explains. “When you hear at 8:30 that at 9 the Emmy Award-winning show is coming on, I think you’re inclined to stay tuned for it.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they do. Says “Law & Order: SVU” executive producer Neil Baer, “I don’t think wins affect ratings at all. Look at ‘The West Wing’ and ‘Arrested Development.’ ”
“West Wing” won four Emmys for drama series: the first in 2000 and the last in 2003. The show wasn’t canceled until last month — three years later — so that test case is a bit unclear, but not so for “Arrested Development.”
Critically beloved but viewer-challenged, Fox was hoping “Arrested” would receive a Nielsen boost after winning comedy series in 2004, but that never happened.
Emmy wins sometimes do have a ratings after-effect, however. Following Michael Chiklis’ actor win for FX’s “The Shield” in 2002, series creator Shawn Ryan says more viewers tuned in.
“He won the Emmy, and we had a little jump. Then, right after the second episode, he also won the Golden Globe. That period is still amongst our highest-rated episodes ever,” he recalls.
Wins for actors and actresses in long-running shows often become more difficult after the early part of a skein’s life as new series make their way into voters’ minds.
“There’s always a sense of looking for the new and the fresh, and new people coming into the mix, and, understandably, there’s a desire to acknowledge them,” Ryan notes.
Chiklis agrees: “In a way, we were victims of our own success. In the first two years, the show came out of the gate so hard, that in the last couple of years, the awards have a tendency to go, ‘OK, they’ve been acknowledged. What’s new?’ ”
Even though Emmy wins may not come as frequently, having received one does helps keep an actor motivated.
“An Emmy is good to you, and you want it to happen again,” Chiklis notes. “It makes you want to rise to a certain level every time and sets a personal bar for yourself that you just don’t want to relinquish.”
“The Shield” featured two big-name theatrical actors in its cast, Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker, in recent years.
“Glenn was won over just by watching the episodes,” says Ryan, “but just getting the meeting with her, and being able to say, ‘This is a show where one of the actors won the Emmy for best actor’ — those things help.”
For Chiklis, who went on last summer to star in Fox’s box office behemoth “Fantastic Four,” the Emmy win might’ve helped him eventually work his way to more bigscreen roles.
“Would ‘Fantastic Four’ have occurred had it not been for the Emmy notice?” Chiklis asks. “I’m not altogether sure. But it does put a spotlight on you for a certain amount of time that makes people very aware of you. And certainly, my career in television is alive and well.”