Fallon’s online savvy key to Emmy gig

Latenight host has strong interaction with viewers

In tapping Jimmy Fallon to host this year’s Emmycast, TV Academy officials are looking to latch on to the latenight star’s online savvy.

But Fallon’s cause was helped in recent months by growing critical buzz for “Late Night,” as the show earns high marks for its pre-taped segments, such as its “Lost” parody “Late” and its “Glee” parody “6-Bee.”

Fallon has taken to the Web and social networking much more than any of his competitors — garnering a whopping 2.6 million followers (at last count) on Twitter alone.

Don’t underestimate the power of Fallon’s following. Big events like awards shows have seen their ratings increase over the past year, and much of that growth has been attributed to sites like Twitter, where users are busy commenting on events in real time.

NBC, which broadcasts this year’s telecast, made a strong case for Fallon thanks in part to the host’s continued online outreach to young fans. And the idea of Fallon simultaneously hosting the Emmys while also providing a blow-by-blow online marks one of the reasons the TV Acad was ultimately sold on the host.

It wasn’t an obvious pick at first. Fallon is still a newbie in latenight, where he’s only been on the air for a little more than a year. And he’s not as well-known among the Academy’s older constituency, which might have jumped at the chance to snag NBC’s “The Marriage Ref” exec producer Jerry Seinfeld.

NBC actually had no shortage of possibilities, as almost anyone from its Thursday night comedy lineup (Steve Carell, Tina Fey) could have made the grade. (Amy Poehler, who’s set to give birth in August, might have been a tougher get.)

More recently, “Late Night” drew notice for a week of musical guests paying tribute to the Rolling Stones. And Fallon even spent a week webcasting himself at 12:35 a.m., making comments as he watched the broadcast of “Late Night.”

That led Entertainment Weekly to list “Late Night” to its “must list” in a recent issue.

That kind of buzz is more important than usual to the TV Academy, as NBC’s telecast reps the end of an eight-year deal the org sealed in 2002 with the Big Four, keeping the telecast rotating on a yearly “wheel basis.”

“Jimmy has many talents,” Emmycast exec producer Don Mischer says. “He can sing, he can dance, he does impersonations, and he does it gracefully and with ease.”

NBC alternative programming exec VP Paul Telegdy points out that Fallon is open to new ideas, and believes that the host would “fully engage audiences and ultimately deliver a lively Emmy telecast.”

Fallon’s hip-hop house band, the Roots, could also liven the proceedings, although their involvement has not yet been confirmed.

Fallon and his exec producer, Mike Shoemaker, are in the beginning stages of planning out ideas for the kudofest. Nothing’s official yet, although the duo have already mapped out some ideas.

Fallon’s no stranger to hosting awards shows, having already hosted both the MTV Movie Awards and the MTV Video Music Awards.

“Hosting the Emmys has been a dream of mine ever since they told me I was doing it,” Fallon quipped when his hosting gig was first announced.

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