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Emmys: Peak TV Meets Peak FYC With Activations and Experiences

As the number of Emmy contenders continues to skyrocket in this era of too much choice, “For Your Consideration” events are evolving into full-fledged
experiential activations.

The traditional Emmy screenings and panel discussions are still around — and have grown to a point that the Television Academy now allows competing events on the same day. But that kind of packed calendar has made it necessary for networks and studios to find new ways to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Netflix opened its annual FYSee space on May 5 at Raleigh Studios with a conversation between Bruce Springsteen and Martin Scorsese, and will close in early June with Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay. Meanwhile taking over the Hollywood Athletic Club for the third year in a row, Amazon’s two-floor exhibition and event space boasted a “Jack Ryan” role-playing game, a hair and makeup suite, and multiple “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” interactive experiences, among other things.And the need to make an impression with these kinds of events may become even more crucial next year, when DVD mailers — the easiest way to build awareness of a project — are no longer allowed by the TV Academy.

“There’s a great ROI [return on investment],” says Amazon Studios marketing head Mike Benson. “You can measure that. If someone doesn’t want to invest a lot, they may not really understand the ROI that they’re getting like we understand what we’re getting. But I would argue that a lot of what we’re doing, some of it is expensive, others I just think are really cool, different types of ideas that aren’t necessarily expensive but truly organic to the programs we’re marketing.”

It’s impossible to say for sure, but Netflix did lead all nominations last year (112) and walked away with 23 Emmys, while Amazon took home eight — placing them both among the top 5 most-honored networks in 2018. Those nominations and awards may have happened regardless of Netflix and Amazon’s installations last year — but neither streamer is leaving things to chance.

Amazon extended its Prime Experience space to nearly a month this year, while also expanding its footprint inside the Hollywood Athletic Club. Beyond that, Amazon is prepping several more FYC stunts — including a “Mrs. Maisel”-themed Carnegie Deli food truck. Netflix’s FYSee activation encompasses 32,000-sq.-ft. soundstages and a 400-seat theater. Besides panels and exhibits, Netflix scheduled events including an all-day “GLOW” Binge-a-thon and a “Prom Night” featuring cast and producers from its young adult series.

Not everyone is on board with building FYC experiences, though. Premium cablers HBO and Showtime, for example, are sticking with high-profile screenings — often with celebrity panel moderators, such as Conan O’Brien for HBO’s “Barry” and Snoop Dogg for Showtim’s “Black Monday.” But for others, creativity, including live music events, prop and costume exhibits, comedy tours and daylong festivals, is key.

“While we might not be able to compete in scale and scope with some of the other FYC events, I think we can compete in our passion to support our shows and our creatives in front of and behind the camera,” says Chris Albert, National Geographic Channel’s executive vice president, global communications and talent relations. “People are so inundated with requests and events and opportunities that I feel like if you don’t come up with something unique that can set you apart, why should people give you their time?”

Nat Geo will throw its Contenders Showcase on June 2 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The all-day event, in which TV Academy members will be encouraged to bring family members, will feature live animals to promote “Hostile Planet”; a sound booth at which people can hear all 28 channels of audio as Alex Honnold climbed Yosemite’s El Capitan in “Free Solo”; and a live orchestra performing the score to both projects.

“We’re one of the rare networks that isn’t based in L.A. so we’re not always top of mind,” Albert says. “So an event like this reminds people we’re serious about supporting our creative talent. I do think it’s great for our brand and brand awareness in the community, and it has the ultimate goal of getting people excited about our programming before they start voting the next week.”

Nat Geo will have to compete with Starz, which is also planning a daylong event for voters on June 2. Starz’s event, dubbed Starz FYC: Creativity, Culture, Conversation, takes place at the Westfield Century City shopping mall.

Featuring a mix of show panels and displays, it’s “a way to showcase all of our series in one place,” says Lauren Townsend, Starz executive vice president of communications.

“There are four months worth of panels happening on an almost nightly basis. At a certain point, it’s harder to get the attendance and get people to focus. I think that was the thinking on our end, try to create a moment for our shows. Then it becomes a sum of its parts instead of a one-off.”

Others curating various panels into full daylong showcases include Sony Pictures Television and ABC Studios.

And in many cases these events aren’t just for Emmy voters anymore. Just as Netflix and Amazon have allowed consumers to check out their FYC displays on certain days, Starz will open its Century City mall activation to non-Academy members a day earlier.

“I think for us we’re looking at it as a brand-building opportunity and a way to showcase all of our series in one place,” Townsend says. “And really help connect the dots for consumers but also for voters.”

CBS Television Studios is also targeting both fans and Emmy voters with “Star Trek: Discovery: Fight for the Future: The Exhibit,” a multimedia display that opened May 8 in Beverly Hills’ Paley Center for Media. Encompassing two floors, the installation features virtual reality, models, props, costumes, prosthetic makeup busts and set pieces such as the USS Discovery captain’s chair.

“There is something about standing out and doing things differently,” says Lauri Metrose, CBS TV Studios senior vice president of communications. “A show like ‘Star Trek’ lends itself to that so well. We’re really highlighting things that make the series special, some of which Academy members may not be as aware of.”

Also at the Paley Center, 20th Century Fox TV installed a costume exhibit for FX’s limited series “Fosse/Verdon” in March and April. The studio said it was visited by more than 16,000 people. The studio’s other FYC events included one for NBC’s “This Is Us” at the Ford Theatre in Los Angeles, featuring live performances from the show’s composer and a conversation with its cast and producers.

Hulu went with a comedy tour to promote “Ramy,” its new comedy starring standup Ramy Youssef. To heighten awareness of the show with both Emmy voters and consumers, Youssef and co-stars Steve Way and Dave Merheje kicked off a multi-city tour. And the outlet also plans to re-create the pool party seen on “Shrill” for voters.

Hulu is also jumping early on the no-DVD bandwagon, eliminating this year’s box of discs in favor of a USB drive for Academy members. Others have stopped sending mailers all together — including Starz, which shifted the money it would have spent on DVDs into its Century City event.

“Why wait until next year? It’s a huge expense,” Townsend says. “We felt we could take some of that budget and apply it to other opportunities such as this FYC day, which will hopefully have a little more bang for the buck.”

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