Daytime Emmys Go Remote as NATAS Cancels In-Person Award Ceremonies

Alex Trebek46th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, Press Room, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Los Angeles, USA - 05 May 2019
J C Olivera/PictureGroup/Shutterstock

The 47th annual Daytime Emmy Awards will carry on without an in-person ceremony this year, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences confirmed on Wednesday. Instead, the org is moving forward with at-home remote video productions for various Emmy awards in 2020, including Daytime, Sports, News & Documentary, and Technology & Engineering.

Originally scheduled to take place in Pasadena, Calif., from June 12 to 14, the Daytime Emmy Awards were postponed last month to a new, undetermined fall date. Now, as stay-at-home measures due to the coronavirus pandemic are expected to prevent large-scale gatherings for months to come, NATAS is mulling how and when to produce a remote streaming show for all of its various Emmy awards.

“The most important factors for us are twofold: To properly recognize the talents and achievements of those in our community and to do it in a safe way,” said NATAS president and CEO Adam Sharp. “With those things in mind, we recognize that putting a thousand people or more into a room anytime this year was not going to satisfy the second prong of that test. And so, it became, take the auditorium gatherings off the table and focus all our energies on priority number one, recognizing excellence.”

Much like NATAS’ New York chapter did last weekend with its own local Emmy awards, the Daytime, Sports, News & Documentary, and Technology & Engineering Emmys will be presented in a series of productions utilizing multiple remote video production technologies to feature nominees and presenters.

Before NATAS confirms a new date for the Daytime Emmys (which could wind up being sooner than the fall), the org is focused on announcing this year’s nominations. Those nods were originally slated to be revealed this week, but are now expected to be shared in mid-May. “We extended the judging window to give some of our judges a little bit more time to complete their work,” Sharp said. “Certainly, everyone’s life has been upended of late. Without a hard date we need to hit on the ceremony side, that gives us some breathing room in each of the competitions to make sure that the judging is as thorough and complete as we would like it to be — and not have to make compromises there just to keep to a calendar.”

Among this year’s other NATAS ceremonies, the 71st Technology & Engineering Emmys were originally slated for April 19 at the NAB Show in Las Vegas; now they’re expected to be announced in October. The 41st Sports Emmys, scheduled for April 28 in New York, will now be revealed in the fall; and the 41st News & Documentary Emmys, originally set to be held in New York this September, will still take place then — but via virtual means.

“Once we have the nominees identified so we have a better feel for who the players are and the nominees that we need to engage for each of these, then we’ll get a sense for the capacity and capability to do things live or pre-recorded and the different types of formats we can experiment with,” Sharp said.

Each ceremony or even categories may be handled a bit differently. In news, for example, much of the talent is already anchoring from home every day. The same goes for daytime talk shows that have adapted to remote production.

“So there’s certainly broadcast level infrastructure to have live connectivity to some of those folks,” Sharp said. In other cases, it might be pre-recorded elements, or video conferencing programs such as Zoom or Skype.

The tricky part, especially with the Daytime Emmys, will be to make sure any pre-recorded segments — such as winner announcements — don’t get leaked early.

“Security is a paramount concern,” Sharp said. “There have been sensitivities in the community in the past, for the live ceremony when members of the crew in previous years had had prior knowledge. In the last two years we had made several changes to how we produce the daytime show to dramatically reduce even that knowledge. That said, this is a very unique environment and a very unique situation. Across the board, everything has to be on the table in considering how to present a show that property celebrates the winners and is entertaining for the viewer. Once we have the nominees, I think we will have more of a direct conversation with them about different ideas and different approaches.”

With the shape of the Daytime Emmys still in flux, Sharp said it’s still too soon to discuss who might host — including whether Mario Lopez and Sheryl Underwood will return again in the role. But he did say there would be an opportunity to tighten the show up, given that some of it will likely be pre-taped.

“I think one of the elements of the creative discussion we’re having is going to be what elements do you try to do live, what elements do you pre tape, what are the pros and cons of each, hosting, what categories are grouped together, how you weave the different events together, what traditional elements stay or change,” Sharp said. “Even in-memoriams and lifetime achievements inherently take a different tone and different form in this environment.”

Sharp said it’s still unclear whether the Daytime Emmys will be split into three ceremonies, as originally planned this year, but he’s expecting the pace to be much quicker. “How long does it take someone to walk from their seat to the stage when their name is called? Multiply that by 100 categories, and all of a sudden you’re taking a lot of dead time out of the show,” he said.

Meanwhile, NATAS is still planning to launch a streaming service this year that will serve as the place to watch the Daytime Emmys and its other awards shows.

Originally set to be unveiled at the NAB show, in time for the Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards, the over-the-top platform is now in final internal beta testing, Sharp explained. The service will launch with archives of past NATAS Emmy ceremonies and still carry this year’s events.

As for the financial hit of scrapping the in-person Emmy ceremonies, Sharp said it would sting, “but I wouldn’t say it’s a devastating one by any stretch. There are impacts on both sides of the balance sheet. Certainly, you’re giving up that ticket revenue, and you’re giving up some of that sponsorship and ad revenue, but you’re also freeing up a lot of costs: Production, food and beverage, printing for programs and tickets, and so on. We’ve also been very appreciative of our venue partners, who’ve been understanding of the situation. We are not left with massive contracts that we are unable to fulfill.”

Instead, Sharp calls the pandemic “the rainy day we were preparing for.” He also pointed out that the Daytime and Sports Emmys received the highest number of entries ever for their respective competitions, while the News & Documentary entry window is still open. “We’ll come roaring back too when the doors open again,” he added.

NATAS’ announcement is unrelated to its West Coast counterpart, the Television Academy, and its plans for the Primetime Emmy Awards, scheduled for September but likely to take a different form as well.