Hayma Washington has decided to step down as chairman and CEO of the Television Academy, Variety has learned exclusively.
Washington tells Variety he decided not to seek a second term so that he can focus on his producing work as well as his efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.
“As I looked back at what we’ve accomplished, I couldn’t be prouder and it just felt for me as a professional and personally it was time to move on,” he says. “I’m an independent producer and as you sit in that position, you really are limited in some of the things you can do with your agendas, and mine being exclusion and inclusion and diversity. I just felt that as an independent producer, if I could get back out into that arena, I could just be so much more effective in what was personally important to me.”
The first African-American chair in the organization’s history, Washington was elected to the post in November 2016, succeeding Bruce Rosenblum, who’d held the post for five years.
Washington acknowledges that balancing his own producing work with the demands of the Academy was “difficult,” given his preference for international projects and going on location. “I have to be honest, whenever I considered what I was suited for, it always came to mind that I had to be mindful of my responsibility to the Academy as far as taking a job that would send me out of the country for long periods of time,” he says. But given his vantage point on the intense competition fueling the TV business, he says, “I hope I walk away better educated and well prepared to hopefully deliver some quality programs myself again.”
Over the course of Washington’s two-year term, he oversaw a new eight-year contract with the four broadcast networks for the annual primetime Emmy Awards telecast, a new code of conduct for members, and an update of the organization’s bylaws.”That gives me great confidence that I’m leaving the academy in good shape.” He calls the new wheel contract his proudest accomplishment. “As a producer, I’m very comfortable sitting in an environment of negotiation, but I have to compliment [the networks] for having the willingness to eventually agree that this was important for both sides,” he says.
His decision comes just as the Academy heads into elections for the new officers and governors, scheduled for November. With programming ever evolving, he says being open to change will be paramount to whoever takes the helm in order to make sure the Academy stays relevant. Top of the agenda, too, will be the awards show itself, which suffered a decline in viewership. “I think we’re always mindful to make any changes that are doable to deliver a better show,” he says. “That’s something I think that everyone will always have on the front of mind as we go into the next Emmy season.” The show also faced a criticism for lack of diversity among the winners. “Inclusiveness and diversity will always be top of our list,” he says. “The specific numbers will always vary, but I think that as you might agree, the overall medium is better than it has been. And it definitely always has room to grow.”
His advice to potential candidates: “This is a great opportunity to be of service, and if you’re coming from an honest place, you’ll enjoy it,” he says.
Once his term expires at the end of the year, Washington will return to producing full-time, citing several projects in the works at the networks. He was an executive producer for CBS’ “Amazing Race,” which earned him seven Emmy Awards, along with a Producers Guild award. His producing credits also include the MTV Video Music Awards and the ESPYs.