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Emmy Nominations: Why I’ll Miss the Pre-Dawn Announcement Ritual

On Thursday morning, I’ll be up early to cover the Emmy nominations. Just not quite early enough.

The Television Academy has made a statement this year about the changing media landscape with its decision to shift the timing of the nominations announcement from the traditional 5:30 a.m. PT ceremony to the later hour of 8:30 a.m. The move ironically underscores that television is no longer the most important venue for promoting the news of television’s most important awards.

The crack-of-dawn nominations unveiling became award-show protocol in order for the news to be covered live on the East Coast by the network morning shows. But in the on-demand era, the news flow never stops.

The Academy wants the Emmy nom news to be shared via Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, et al. by 5 million TV lovers more than it wants a five-minute spot on “Today,” “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning” In that context, 8:30 a.m. is a better time to ride the wave of West Coast people posting as they finish their morning coffee and East Coast fans checking in just before they head to lunch.

This means that those of us who are paid to pay attention to the Emmy Awards get to sleep a little later on Thursday morning. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to like it.

Rising around 4 a.m. on Emmy nominations morning in order to get to the Television Academy headquarters in North Hollywood on time has been a ritual of mine for 22 years. I tiptoe through the house, trying not to wake up the family as I slip out to my car in the driveway. Inevitably, there’s a creaky door or something I stumble over that blows my cover.

It’s always a quiet ride over the hill to North Hollywood, just me and the overnight anchors on all-news radio station KNX-AM (or KFWB-AM until a few years ago). The stoplights seem to beam more brightly in the darkness of the wee hours. No matter how much time I have to make the trip, I’m always neurotic about being late, especially during the last mile down Lankershim Boulevard.

Once there, I grab a cup of coffee in the lobby of the Academy’s Leonard Goldenson Theater and wave at the many familiar faces milling about. Tall as he is, John Solberg of FX Networks is impossible to miss. But there’s very little chit chat before the main event. We’re all still too bleary and hoarse for that.

Finally, as the pre-telecast sound checks start in the theater around 5:25 a.m., my brain kicks in to work mode. As the categories are read off, there are occasionally gasps and whoops and applause — an interesting bellwether of heat by industry standards.

After the presentation is over, it’s a mad dash back into the lobby to grab from Academy staffers the thick packets that contain the entire nominations release and other facts and figures. This is one time when old-fashioned paper copies trump digital delivery. You never see people flipping pages so fast as when publicists are searching to see if clients were nominated.

By the time I’m back on Lankershim heading to the office, the sun is up, there are more cars on the road and I’m writing stories in my head. I’m now wide awake and revved up for what is always one of the longest workdays of the year.

It’s not just the timing of the announcement that is different this year. Because of the renovation project under way at Academy headquarters, Thursday’s noms announcement will be held at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.

The upshot of all the changes should be nothing but positive for me, as the location is more convenient and the call time is later. And yet I have to admit that the disruption of my Emmy noms morning routine is unsettling. It’s another example of how every tradition in TV — from profit models to pomp and circumstance — is being turned inside out.

I’m sure I will enjoy an extra hour or two of sleep on Thursday morning. But some part of my subconscious will still be making that trip in the dark down Lankershim Boulevard.

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