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Emmy Awards Unveil Rule Changes, New Short-Form Categories For 2016 Race

In a move to recognize the boom in digital content, the Television Academy has added new categories to the Emmy Awards recognizing short-form series.

The Emmys has expanded the short-form series awards to four categories: comedy or drama; variety; reality/non-fiction; and animation. Series must have a minimum of six episodes with an average length of 15 minutes or less, and be shown on traditional TV or via the Internet. Awards have also been added for short-form actor and actress as well.

“What was clear to the governors is that there is a rapid acceleration in the volume of terrific creative work being done by our members in the space,” TV Academy chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum told Variety. “One of the primary goals for our organization is to award creative excellence. There was no reason why we shouldn’t be awarding creative excellence in short-form digital content as well.”

The new kudos will be handed out as part of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, which will now be presented over two consecutive nights, the weekend prior to the Primetime Emmy Awards. A date has yet to be announced for the awards shows, which are slated for September. “One of the nice benefits of that decision was the added flexibility to award more categories and not have an excessively long ceremony,” said Rosenblum.

The Emmys will provide stiff competition to existing franchises already trying to corner the market on awards for excellence in digital video, including Dick Clark Prods.’ Streamy Awards and the International Academy of Web TV Awards. The fifth annual Streamys were televised for the first time in September by VH1, hosted by Tyler Oakley and Grace Helbig. What will make the Emmys stand out, say insiders, is bringing the professional stature conveyed by an award given by the TV Academy. “It’ll be great to see someone like Tyler Oakley win an Emmy,” said Brian Robbins, CEO of AwesomenessTV.

Robbins and others in the industry, like YouTube’s Susanne Daniels, consulted with Rosenblum, and are not surprisingly thrilled with the results. “It does really lend great credibility to the space,” said Robbins. “For the Academy wanting to continue to be modern and relevant, it’s an important step for them, too.”

The recognition of digital content isn’t entirely new. In addition to welcoming subscription VOD services like Netflix and Amazon Prime that feature long-form programming, the Emmys have a lower-profile set of awards tucked into its Creative Emmys from its Interactive Emmy media peer group. Those categories focus on Internet-based programming but target digital extensions of existing TV series, such as past winners like HBO’s “Game of Thrones Viewing Guide.” Any full-length series from YouTube Red, for example, would compete in the existing categories; but shorter length offerings from them, or other digital studios would enter in the new awards.

Rosenblum draws a parallel between this category expansion and the inclusion of reality programming back in 2001, which has since grown from eight categories to now 22. “The world has evolved,” he said. “It’s fun to be able to expand our footprint when we recognize creative achievement.”

The TV Academy also unveiled several other rule changes for 2016, including an increase in the number of nominations (from five to six) for directing and writing in both comedy and drama series. This move reflects the recent significant increase in series production. “Once again, it was necessitated by the volume of quality creative work being done by our members,” said Rosenblum. “We understand it’s not a material increase, but it’s a baby step.”

Other rules changes include:

• Eliminating ranked voting in the final round: Categories in which voters were asked to rank nominees in order of preference will now require just a single vote for the top selection only.

• Expanding picture editing for reality programming and production design for variety series/special to two categories.

• Changing the categorization of shortened seasons for series: Once a show is established as a series, if additional shortened seasons are added (fewer than six episodes), it would still be considered a series, unless it was limited to one or two episodes (which would categorize it as a movie and a limited series respectively).

• Adding a two-step nominating process for special visual effects.

A full list of the rules changes will be available at the Emmys website.

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