When the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences began discussing a return to broadcast TV for the Daytime Emmys with CBS last year, the org never could have expected that it would be under these circumstances. But now, NATAS and telecast producer Associated Television Inc. (ATI) are looking at the necessary changes in a COVID-19 world as a chance to reinvent the show.
“Certainly, this is a new and unique experience for us, but it’s one that also carries a lot of opportunity, an opportunity to be a more intimate, tighter broadcast, and one that can be really engaging for the audience,” says Adam Sharp, president and CEO, NATAS.
This year’s 47th Daytime Emmys, which air June 26 on the Eye network, will be pre-taped and shot from various stars’ homes with the women of “The Talk” serving as hosts. To keep the element of surprise, presenters will tape five different envelope openings — and every nominee in the major categories presented will be asked to tape an acceptance speech and send it to the show.
Ultimately, it will be up to the show’s accountants to reveal the winners to producers and the editors shaping the show, who will then make sure to only edit in the winners’ names and their thank-you videos.
“It’s probably the first time [in awards show history] that all of the nominees will be giving acceptance speeches,” says ATI’s Al Schwartz, who is executive producing the show. “Everybody that’s nominated will, from their homes, into their own cell phones, be able to give all those speeches that they’ve always practiced in the past of hoping to give. But only the winners will be played on the air once the accountants tell us who the winners are. And I think one of the very unique things is nobody can be played off.”
Nominees will be asked to keep their remarks to just 20 seconds. Between shorter acceptance speeches and no need to wait for winners to make their way up to the stage, Schwartz says there will be plenty of time during the two-hour telecast to give out between 15 and 20 awards while still showing full clip packages and other elements — including a segment on the greatest moments in Daytime Emmy history, presented by Variety.
“In this case, we’re able to be more creative than we can on any other award show,” he says. “Since it’s pre-taped, we can really present, for the viewers’ entertainment, the best possible visuals for each nominee. There’s going to be time to breathe in this show. And also, there’s time to keep the pacing up, so that it doesn’t get monotonous.”
Complicating the production is that due to the pandemic, the team is handling the entire show remotely, and on opposite coasts. “Half the team will probably never meet each other,” Sharp says.
As for keeping the winners’ identities under wraps, “we’ve established an internal process so that actual knowledge of the winner is kept as a need-to-know basis on a category-by-category basis,” he says. “Certainly as we get closer to final delivery of the show, on the week of the 26th, there will be those who start seeing the whole picture come together. But obviously, a big goal of that is keeping that circle small.”
This will be the first time the Daytime Emmys has been on broadcast TV since 2011, when it last aired on CBS. Sharp credits ATI president David McKenzie for lobbying CBS to take the Daytime Emmys back — and the network’s specials boss, Jack Sussman, for seeing an opportunity in reimagining the show.
“All those stars started to align in the end,” Sharp says. “But it would not have were it not for David and Jack and their willingness to go back to the drawing board and say, ‘OK, how do we all come together and make this happen?’”