Back in March, the TV Academy announced a major makeover — including a new name, a $40 million fundraising drive and a renovation of its North Hollywood campus. Here, TV Academy chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum gives Variety a state of the union report on the Emmys.
Variety: Update us on the makeover.
How’s it going?
Rosenblum: It’s really an exciting time. This is the first year we’re going to have online electronic voting. From an operational standpoint, it’s a big step forward.
Second, we’ve had meaningful outreach beyond the borders of traditional television. While we continue to embrace the wonderful work that’s being done by both the broadcast and cable networks, we’ve really made an effort to reach out to the services that are ordering a meaningful amount of original content, whether that’s Netflix or Amazon or Hulu and Xbox.
Number three, a meaningful part of what the organization does is our philanthropic work at the TV Academy Foundation. There’s been a big push for all of us to prepare the next generation of creative and business leaders in our community, whether that’s outreach to students for scholarships and internships, to faculty or teachers with our seminars, or what we’re best known for with our archives, to memorialize all the great work and have those stories available to be shared with the next generation.
Variety: Why did you introduce online voting this year?
Rosenblum: It’s a recognition of where technology has taken our members. We watched the progress online voting had with the motion picture Academy, and all evidence suggests that there was substantial growth in voting participation. We’re hopeful that we’re not only making this easier for our members from a voting standpoint, but that it will enhance voting participation.
Variety: Why make the extra effort to reach out to digital creators?
Rosenblum: Our members are employed on their series, our members are creating their series, our members are performing on their series. In our sense it’s going quite well. Ted Sarandos, in particular, I asked to be on our executive committee, and he graciously agreed to do that. We’re seeing a much closer working relationship with those organizations as they order more original content.
Variety: Surely it’s important to them to see their work recognized by the Academy?
Rosenblum: I would hope they feel that way. My sense was that Netflix received a lot of awareness and credibility as a result of the nominations “House of Cards” received last year. And it’s reasonable to expect as these platforms order more original content, they’ll be recognized with nominations.
Variety: How are the plans going for the Emmys this year?
Rosenblum: We’re very excited to be partnering with the team at NBC. Paul (Telegdy) and Bob (Greenblatt) and their teams do terrific work. They selected Don Mischer to executive produce. I had the good fortune to work with Don in 2012. He’s a joy to work with and a true professional. And then NBC selected Seth (Meyers) to be the host. His work speaks for itself. I watched him do hosting work on the ESPYs, and he was terrific. We all anticipate that he’ll bring a fresh spark to the show this year.
Variety: There was a fair bit of category jockeying this year.
Rosenblum: It’s not in the Academy’s best interest to have a system that encourages forum shopping. But thus far, each of the decisions that have been made are well within the rules. It is something we have looked at and will continue to look at in an effort to avoid forum shopping but it’s realistic to expect, that as content and creativity continue to grow, adjustments will need to be made.
Variety: “Orange is the New Black” executive producer Jenji Kohan has suggested changing the categories to half hour and hour. Do you see that happening?
Rosenblum: I don’t see that on our agenda. Whether someone many years down the road wants to take that issue on, it would be that generation’s leadership issue. It is not a new issue — “Desperate Housewives” entered as a comedy. If our voting membership, which is over 16,000 members, thinks a given show was one of the best comedies, that’s a pretty clear indication it’s a comedy.
Variety: What about the debate over a 10-episode show competing with a
Rosenblum: That’s the structure we have, and I don’t think anyone’s looking to go back to the Cable ACE Award days. Our membership evaluates and votes on what they believe the best show of that year is. We’re not the Golden Globes, where there’s a limited number of voters, and we’re not the People’s Choice Awards, which is a popularity contest. This is a vote of your peers.
Variety: What do you think of the quality of TV this year overall?
Rosenblum: I think it’s been an era where television has never been better. If you look at the last three, four, five years of drama and comedy, the quality of the work being done by our membership has never been better. While the audience is dispersed among platforms and many choices, the best shows are rising to the top. We only have room for six nominees in the drama and comedy categories, but clearly far more than 12 shows deserve recognition at the end of the season.
Variety: What’s on your DVR?
Rosenblum: I absolutely love “True Detective.” I thought the quality of work on “True Detective” was exceptional. I remain a huge fan of “The Big Bang Theory.” While the show has never won an Emmy for Best Comedy, I am its number one fan. “House of Cards” is a terrific show, and was beautifully marketed and executed by the Netflix team. And a must-watch in our family is “The Voice.”
Variety: What are you most looking forward to about Emmy night?
Rosenblum: The end of the evening when I get to take off my tuxedo and relax.