Emmys: TV Academy Reveals Fees for Digital Screeners, Now That DVDs Are Over

The Academy also shares several Emmy rule changes, sets its 2020 awards calendar, and announces retirement of awards SVP John Leverence.

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Cheyne Gateley for Variety

No DVDs, no problem: The Television Academy is sharing details on how it will charge studios and networks for digital Emmy screeners next year, now that the organization will no longer allow physical mailers to its 25,000 members.

Starting in 2020, there will be a flat fee for a show’s For Your Consideration screeners to be hosted on the Academy’s FYC viewing platform or the submitter’s own site. (Submitting networks/studios can choose one location — either the Academy platform or their own.) The fee will be charged once per program, with an unlimited number of episodes.

The FYC digital screener fees will depend on program category, starting with $8,000 per program for key competitions including comedy, drama, limited series or TV movie. FYC payment will be collected via order form, and the Academy says it “reserves the right to audit partner participation in the FYC program and collect fees accordingly” (in other words, don’t sneak a few extra episodes up there).

This could still represent a big savings for studios and networks, which under the previous DVD screener rules were required to pay fees of $200 per episode, per peer group (which currently number 29) — up to a flat rate of $2,000 per episode. Ten episodes sent to all 29 peer groups, then, would have cost $20,000 in fees alone. Add in the packaging and shipping costs for those DVD box sets, and execs familiar with the campaign process said a typical studio mailer with multiple titles could cost a minimum of $1 million.

Networks and studios hated those DVD mailers because they were too expensive and didn’t seem to offer much return, particularly in the streaming age. And TV Academy members that they felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of DVD screeners being shipped to their homes and offices. The org finally took action in January, banning DVD screeners starting with the 2020 Emmy campaign.

“Every email that we got, every person that I saw at an event, thanked me,” TV Academy chairman/CEO Frank Scherma told Variety in August. “Everyone was still doing it because everybody else was doing it. But I would come in to the office and there’d be a stack of a hundred DVDs behind my assistant, every week.”

But because the DVD fees were a lucrative form of income for the TV Academy, many questioned how the org would make up for that lost revenue. The TV Academy previously didn’t charge studios and networks to offer digital screeners, so the new online screening fees will replace some of the DVD revenue. Networks/studios will be allowed to promote their online content, whether on the Academy’s platform or their own site, by one of the following methods in a given season: a booklet, postcard, or a branded email (via Television Academy). They may also distribute an access code in Emmy magazine.

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Donna Pennestri-Day

“When we were replacing the DVDs, we went out to the folks in the industry and said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do. Here’s the support that we’re going to need from you. It’ll cost you less, but we’ll still need you to pay for a certain thing to get to our members,'” Scherma added in that late summer interview. ”It’s a smart thing for the industry. We’re saving them a lot of money.

That does mean, however, that some outlets that had already stopped sending out physical mailers will now have to once again budget for digital screener fees. Last year, there were 165 drama series, 108 comedies and 35 limited series submitted for nomination consideration — so if all 308 of those programs offered online screeners, that could provide the Academy $2,464,000 in fees.

And those aren’t the only series or specials categories, although the fee structure varies, depending on program type. The screener cost goes down to $6,000 for competition program, structured reality program, unstructured reality program or variety talk series.

Program categories that will be charged $4,000 include animated program, children’s program, documentary or nonfiction series, hosted nonfiction series or special, and variety sketch series. Program categories charged $2,000 include documentary or nonfiction special, variety special (live), variety special (pre-recorded) and the short form categories. Individual achievement categories will be charged $200.

Meanwhile, the Television Academy’s Board of Governors approved several more rule changes on Monday, including a “double dipping” ban that will now limit performers playing the same character in more than one series from submitting twice. Instead, they may only enter one of those series during the eligibility year. “With many crossover series episodes being produced, this new rule prevents this from happening,” the Academy said.

Also, the Academy confirmed its new arrangement with its New York counterparts at the National Academy of TV Arts and Sciences over the eligibility of daytime series that produce special primetime episodes. Moving forward, programs in primetime that are an extension or a special version of a daytime series will only be eligible for the Daytime Emmys. That means no more Primetime Emmy nominations for “Sesame Street” or “Jeopardy” specials that air in primetime, for example.

And then there’s the “Megan Amram Rule, Part 2.” The Academy has revised its short form series vetting process once again, this time focusing specifically on “self-published” (a.k.a. independent) programming. Now, according to the new rule, “all self-published programming (including short form) will be vetted to determine if the program is suitably competitive to be placed on the nominee ballot. Additionally, no individual achievements within the self-published program may be entered unless the program is approved.”

Amram’s “An Emmy for Megan,” which she produces herself, was nominated this past year in the short form comedy or drama series category against shows from major networks including Comedy Central, Netflix and SundanceTV. Under the new rules, only “An Emmy for Megan” would go through the vetting process, since it was self-produced and self-published on a streaming platform without financial or production involvement from a network or studio. (After Season 1 of “An Emmy for Megan” was nominated in 2018, the Academy made some clarifications to what might qualify as an Emmy-eligible short series — including a stipulation that every episode must be at least two minutes long.)

In another change, the Academy clarified its “hanging episodes” rules, for episodes that are broadcast or posted after the end of the eligibility year. For episodes that just miss the cutoff, they’re still eligible — as long as they’re posted on the network’s streaming platform or on the Television Academy’s private, member-accessible platform in final, ready-for-air form by May 31, 2020. Otherwise, those episodes won’t be eligible until the following year.

For limited series, the rule change is more pointed: To qualify for eligibility in the current eligibility year, the complete limited series must be broadcast or posted by May 31, 2020. “If the limited series has one or more episodes/parts that fall into the subsequent eligibility year, and those episodes/parts are not able to be posted by May 31, then the complete limited series, along with the individual achievements, will be eligible in the subsequent eligibility year,” the Academy reports.

The “hanging episode” clarifications could be in response to what happened this year with “The Handmaid’s Tale.” In 2019, a handful of so-called “orphaned episodes” of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” wound up competing (and winning), even though the season itself and the majority of its episodes fell under 2018 eligibility.

In November, Variety broke the news that the TV Academy would launch a vetting process for Emmy voters, limiting inactive industry players without lengthy credits to an “associate,” non-voting membership. Here are more changes for next year’s show:

• Outstanding informational series or special category has been renamed “outstanding hosted nonfiction series or special.”

“The retitled Hosted Nonfiction Series or Special category accommodates and more accurately defines personality-driven programs in which the host drives the show’s narrative; includes documentaries, travelogues, segmented/magazine program and interview formats,” the Academy announced.

• A limitation on who votes for outstanding children’s program: “To ensure that experts in the genres are deciding who should be recognized, the children’s programming peer group has limited the ability to vote for outstanding children’s program to daytime and animation peer group voting members only.”

• New ballot entry fees: $100 processing charge per submission; $100 fee for each entrant/individual submitted. (Example: A costume design entry fee for two individuals is $100 + $200, for a total of $300 for the entry.)

New fees for program entries are: $200 processing charge per submission and $100 fee for each entrant/individual submitted. (Example: The entry fee for a Comedy Series that has only one producer is $200 + $100, for a total of $300 for the entry.)

• Makeup and hairstyling categories have now been reclassified. Similar to costume categories, they’ll now be divided between “period” (“more than 25 years prior to the current awards eligibility year”) and “contemporary. Entry should be a majority of period makeup.”

• Short form programming, which previously had to be at least two minutes in length, now also has a sent end time: Eligible short-form entries must feature “an average episode running time of two minutes to 17 minutes.”

• In the supporting actor and actress for longform category, the Academy has put the clarification of its 5% rule in writing: “The minimum stand-alone and contiguous-screen time for eligibility is 5% of the total running time of a movie or a complete limited series.” That means even if a performer isn’t on camera, if they’re still technically in the scene, it counts.

Variety wrote about the debate over that rule earlier this year. In the specific case of “When They See Us,” nominees Marsha Stephanie Blake and John Leguizamo exceeded the 5% minimum in part because their characters are in meetings with their boys and their lawyers, which is considered “contiguous-scene” times.

But because that’s not spelled out in the rules, a number of awards campaigners assumed that only meant the time a performer is seen on camera — and had been meticulous in using a stopwatch to make sure their submission reaches that 5% threshold.

• Interactive programming categories have been divided into outstanding derivative interactive program, original interactive program, and interactive extension of a linear program.

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• After nearly 40 years at the Television Academy, senior VP of awards John Leverence is retiring at the end of the year. Leverence will continue to serve as an awards consultant for the 2020 Emmy season, but the Academy’s awards department will now merge with its membership department, and be run by Julie Shore. Shore, who has been named vice president, awards and member services, will oversee the board relations and membership department, which includes new awards and member services managers who are addressing member applications and peer group inquiries, as well as assisting with awards entries.

• Finally, here’s a look at key dates for the 2020 Emmy Awards season:

Eligibility: June 1, 2019 – May 31, 2020

Jan. 6: Distribution of FYC Campaign materials begins

Jan. 22: FYC Event Date Lottery

Feb. 13: Online entry process begins.

Mar. 2: FYC Event Window opens

Early March: Viewing platform opens

Mar. 10: Deadline to apply for membership to guarantee voting eligibility for both rounds of the 72nd Emmy competition and for members to secure member entry fee discount. This date also applies to former members. Application must be completed and paid in order to qualify.

Apr. 7: Deadline for current voting members to apply for hyphenate voting status

May 11, 6 p.m.: Entry deadline for all entries that were originally presented 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., June 1, 2019 – May 31, 2020 (including hanging episodes)

May 11, 6 p.m.: Upload deadline for all entry materials

June 10: Final deadline for FYC viewing platform orders and submissions

June 14: FYC events conclude

June 15: Nominations-round voting begins

June 29, 10 p.m.: Nominations-round voting ends

Tuesday, July 14: Nominations announced

July 28: Deadline for errors and omissions to the nominations

Week of Aug. 10: Final-round videos available for viewing

Aug. 17: Final-round voting begins

Aug. 31, 10 p.m.: Final-round voting ends

September TBD: Creative Arts Awards and Governors Ball Events

September TBD: ABC Telecast and Governors Ball