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TV Academy Revamps Rule Book for Award Hopefuls

TV stars and producers have more opportunities to win than ever before at this year’s 66th annual Primetime Emmys.

The Television Academy put in place several changes to the rule book. Made-for-TV movies will now be considered separately from miniseries, or limited series as they are now called. As many as seven nominees may be considered in the comedy and drama series categories, and non-competitive reality shows are being split into two categories, structured and unstructured.

These changes reflect today’s fast-moving TV industry, and some would argue that the Primetime Emmy Awards need to be even further altered in the future.

Chief among those concerns is how to define a show as a comedy or drama, two categories between which the line is becoming increasingly muddied.

When asked at the HRTS luncheon on April 16 whether there is such a thing as a drama or comedy anymore, “Bates Motel’s” Carlton Cuse replied, “Only for Emmys, apparently.”

Today’s difficulty in categorizing shows may be frustrating for showrunners and network chiefs, but it’s the hallmark of the diverse television environment in which audiences find themselves, allowing them to watch everything from an epic fantasy to a political satire in a single night.

While the drama and comedy categories remain the same, the TV Academy did vote in a change this year that states if the votes for any comedy or drama series is within 2% of the sixth-place series, a seventh nomination will be allowed. That rule already exists in the acting categories, which is why in 2013 seven women were nominated for actress in a drama series.

“The accountants tell us every year that with the tightness of these races, it may very well be that you would see a seventh series coming in for a nomination,” says John Leverence, the TV Academy’s senior VP of awards.

One big change this year is splitting the unscripted category into structured and unstructured reality shows; this more closely reflects the way industry executives discuss reality shows.

“The reality is that reality has evolved and there are different kinds of shows,” says Shari Levine, Bravo’s senior VP of original productions. “When we pick shows, there are three genres that we talk about internally: serialized shows or docu-soaps, which are unstructured; structured shows and competition shows.”

A structured reality show is one like ABC’s “Shark Tank,” which features a format but not a competition, while an unstructured reality show would include Bravo’s “Real Housewives” or A&E’s “Duck Dynasty.” Reality competition shows remain the same and include such programs as Fox’s “American Idol,” CBS’ “Survivor” and 14-time winner “The Amazing Race,” and last year’s champion, NBC’s “The Voice.”
“Some 80% of TV programming is reality,” says Rob Sharenow, executive VP and general manager of Lifetime. “What this change really speaks to is that there is a different skill set and a different artistry that goes into making these shows.”

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