Even though we are only halfway through the year, the entertainment industry is already gearing up for awards season, when the best of the best of 2019 will be celebrated. The first ceremony of the season takes place each September, and awards the best in television programming that year. Recently, the nominations for the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards were unveiled, and people have already begun speculating on who will take home the biggest prizes this year. What many people are unaware of, however, is how the winners are decided upon. Here, we’ll look at how nominees are chosen and how winners are selected.
The eligibility period for the Emmys runs from June 1st to May 31st each year. Programming must air during this period in order to be eligible for that year’s awards. Furthermore, programming must air on broadcast or cable television, or on a digitally distributed network with a reach of 51% of the national market.
As long as they meet the aforementioned eligibility requirements, any program, actor or other individual who “achieved something on TV” during the eligibility period is free to submit a nomination entry.
The submission process is surprisingly easy and largely boils down to paperwork and fees. In what is largely a strategic process, each applicant has to decide for themselves which categories they wish to submit to, and then must pay a fee for each entry. Programs pay a fee of $425 per category while individual applicants pay a fee of $225 per category.
For Your Consideration
After nominations have been submitted — this year there were nearly 3,000 overall — studios will often embark on wildly expensive “For Your Consideration” campaigns, in which they essentially sell their program to Academy voters in hopes of landing a nomination. While these campaigns started rather modestly as billboards in the Los Angeles area, they have expanded to include everything from social media campaigns to huge soundstage installations, parties and screenings for Academy members.
When the dust settles from the “For Your Consideration” campaigns, Academy voters get to work on deciding the nominees. In total, there are nearly 25,000 Academy members. These members are then divided into 30 peer groups that represent specific professions within the industry. Any professional within the television industry is eligible to become a member of the Academy.
Each and every Academy member is eligible to vote on what are considered to be the major categories of the ceremony, such as “Best Drama” and “Best Comedy” among other broad program-based categories. When it comes to individual performance categories, only peers of the nominees in that category are eligible to vote. This means that actors vote for acting, directors vote for directing, writers vote for writing and so forth.
During the voting period, members send their ballots to an independent accounting firm, Ernst and Young, in New York City. These ballots are then counted by hand. Whoever receives the highest number of votes is then awarded a nomination, up to a maximum of 5 nominees in each category.
Deciding the Winners
Once the nominees have been announced, the Academy asks for volunteers among its members to judge the nominees and decide the winners. These volunteer judges are grouped in their respective peer groups once again, meaning the number of voters for each category varies. Before their votes can be counted, members must confirm that they have actually watched the nominated programs. This process has changed drastically over the years. Initially, marathon screenings were held in Hollywood. This method, however, came to be criticized as many felt it only allowed certain members of the industry to participate. In 2000, the Academy started letting members watch tapes of the nominees at home. Today, Academy members are encouraged to log on to a secure web platform to stream nominated programs. Many members agree that these changes in the voting process have been the catalyst to more members participating in the voting process and smaller, more “daring” shows being nominated because of it.
Once again, voters send their ballots to Ernst and Young. At this stage, the votes are counted and the nominee with the highest number of votes is declared the winner. These selections are then sealed in envelopes, to be unveiled at the ceremony in September.
As the race between broadcast, cable and streaming networks continues to heat up, this year’s Emmy nominees are perhaps the most diverse the ceremony has ever seen. However, whether or not tradition continues with HBO securing the most awards is all in the voters’ hands now. With a broad range of nominees and voting members, this could be the year that a newcomer such as PopTV’s “Schitt’s Creek” makes a big splash. In either case, we’ll have to wait until September to see what voters have deemed to be the best of the best this year.