A day after HBO swept all eight longform categories, broadcast network execs once again groused about having to devote so much Emmy time to those awards. And they may now be in a position to do something about it.
It's no secret that the Big Four broadcast networks, which take turns televising the Emmys, are itching to kick the longform categories out of the live telecast.
The TV Academy has so far managed to keep the categories in the show. But as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC get ready to discuss a new contract with the TV Academy, the fate of those longform awards promises to be a key negotiating point.
And some insiders believe that if the org manages to secure another deal with a license fee near its current $7.5 million annual pricetag, it will come with some concessions — such as altering the way those longform awards are presented.
It's not a new idea. Ever since the broadcasters got out of the longform game, they've been anxious to move those categories to the Creative Arts Emmys. (Another option: Launching a new longform awards show, which could be telecast on HBO or another cabler.)
Network execs say they have no beef with longform programming in general. But devoting so much time to a handful of minis and movies that have been seen by a fraction of the audience is a momentum killer, they argue, and one reason that the Emmycast isn't a big viewer draw.
And Emmy ratings suggest that viewers agree, Mischer said.
"When we looked at the minute by minute ratings, they really do drop in longform," he said. "And longform is some of the best work in television — just unbelievably good work of the highest quality with great artists. But it's a simple fact that it's less accessible to viewers."
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MEANWHILE… Why does this all sound familiar? Yeah, we wrote similar stories back in 2002, when then Emmy license deal was last up. Check out this Variety column from eight years ago, which I wrote after the 2002 Emmys. Sub out a few names, and it could have been written today.
This was my proposal back then:
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.
The more things change… apparently the more they don't.