Roll the credits

TV Acad upends rules on exec producer eligibility

Some major Hollywood TV producers could be in for a rude surprise when this year’s Emmy noms are announced July 6.

Thanks to a little-noticed rules change by the TV Academy, simply having an exec producer credit on a show no longer automatically qualifies you for an Emmy nom. Now, anyone up for a team award — such as best comedy, drama or movie — must “have made a significant and substantive contribution to the achievement entered” to be eligible for nomination.

And Bob Yari thought he had it tough.

Nobody knows just how the new rule will change things — but the potential for ego damage is clear. The TV biz is filled with big-name producers, but did they log enough time on the sets or in the writers’ rooms to make a “significant and substantive” contribution to the productions?

“The answer used to be (that) the (exec producer) title is the best evidence we’re going to get that this person is eligible,” says John Leverence, senior VP of awards for the TV Academy. But that’s changed.

He compares the old system to those EZ Pass toll stations found in major cities.

“If you had a pass that worked, you were going through,” Leverence says. “Now you put that pass against the machine, the bar goes up and the guy in the toll booth comes out and sees if you are who you say you are.”

He also suggests that some producers whose names aren’t submitted for consideration could end up getting nominated anyway, since the “significant and substantive” rule works both ways.

“There will be some people surprised to see their names” on the noms list, he says.

Not everyone’s convinced the TV Academy is doing the right thing.

“The producers and the studios should be making the call,” says one studio exec of the new rules. “How could any organization not involved in the day-to-day running of the show know the value of someone to the team?”

Not helping matters: Numerical caps imposed a few years ago that were supposed to limit how many producers or writers can be nominated for show awards. In fact, under the new system, those caps are now just “target” numbers, not hard limits, Leverence says.

“If 15 people deserved to be nominated on a show, they will be nominated,” he insists.

While TV types are concerned — and, in some cases, confused — over what the rules change means, Leverence says the Academy is simply trying to “recognize excellence.” He notes, too, that the Emmys have a long history of tweaking eligibility rules every few years, swinging between a quantitative focus and a more qualitative approach.

In other words: If you don’t like the Emmy rules this year, wait a while. They’ll probably change again soon.

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