Can Broadcast Pave a Road Back to Emmy Glory?

The Big Four broadcasters are in the final stages of negotiating an eight-year renewal of the deal through which they share rights to televise the Primetime Emmy Awards. For their trouble, they will get to continue broadcasting for nearly a decade what is effectively a commercial for HBO, FX, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. (Coming soon: Apple!)

The nominees from broadcasters this year were predictably paltry. The lone bright spot was NBC, which ranked third behind Netflix and HBO among networks and platforms with 78 nominations — up 22% from its tally last year. The network’s fortunes were buoyed by “Saturday Night Live,” which tied HBO’s “Westworld” for the second most nominations of any show with 21, only one back from the pack leader, the pay cabler’s “Game of Thrones.”

ABC, CBS and Fox, however, each drew fewer than half the nominations that NBC did. At 16 nominations, Fox was bested by not one but two cable cousins — for now, anyway — FX and National Geographic. The network that will be relied on through its owned and operated local stations to drive earnings for Rupert Murdoch’s post-Disney deal empire managed only four more nominations than VH1 (soon to be a subsidiary of the CBS Corp. — or not).

What the broadcasters need to do to get back in the Emmy game is simple: start spending $10 million-$15 million per episode on their dramas, just like HBO does with “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld.” Or they could take all creative restrictions off their comedy creators and encourage them to drift into genre-defying weirdness, as FX did with “Atlanta.” Or they could spend $8 billion a year on content in a volume game designed to destroy the television ecosystem as John Landgraf knows it. Hi, Netflix.

Aside from all that, the broadcasters have few options. In the main acting and series categories, they boast few nominations now and for the foreseeable future. When the freshman season of NBC’s “This Is Us” failed to best Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the drama series race last year, the hurt was felt not only by Peacocks. Marketers at rival networks privately expressed disappointment that what many perceived as the best shot at a series Emmy for a broadcast show in years had failed to take the trophy.

NBC’s big tally, however, does offer a path to Emmy riches for other broadcasters, should they choose to take it. Many of the network’s nominations came in categories that are less competitive — variety, specials and movies. Aside from “Saturday Night Live,” NBC’s biggest player was “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.” NBC campaigned aggressively on behalf of the live musical, and landed star John Legend a nomination for best miniseries or movie actor.

As broadcasters continue to look to event programming to drive live ratings, it makes sense that they should turn more and more to those shows for awards emphasis. Campaigns for unscripted series, specials and movies — if invested in — could be more likely to yield returns than those mounted on behalf of dramas and comedies designed to appeal to broad audiences in an era where voters like that which is big, expensive and bespoke.

More TV

  • China Plans Remake of BBC Time-Travel

    China Plans Remake of BBC Time-Travel Cop Show ‘Life on Mars’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    A Chinese “Life on Mars” is in the works after BBC Studios and Phoenix Entertainment inked a deal to create a Mandarin-language version of the time-travel cop series. BBC Studios will officially unveil the format deal at Showcase, its annual programming market for international buyers, which is now underway in Liverpool, England. “Life on Mars” [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • 50 Cent Power

    NYPD Officer Under Investigation for Allegedly Telling Police to Shoot 50 Cent 'on Sight'

    A New York City precinct commander is under investigation for allegedly telling officers to shoot rapper 50 Cent on sight, a police rep confirmed to Variety on Sunday. “The matter is under internal review,” an NYPD rep said, declining to answer further questions. Deputy Inspector Emanuel Gonzalez is accused of telling officers during a June 7 roll [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content