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TV Column
Posted at 02:07 AM ET, 05/05/2011

Broadcast networks secure Emmy Awards for eight years


(Kevork Djansezian - AP)
The major English language broadcast networks will continue taking turns airing the Primetime Emmy Awards through 2018, to the guaranteed tune of $66 million, the TV academy announced very late Wednesday night.

But the show may look different. A pull-push between those networks and the academy to dump some categories has been tabled until next year.

The networks, the academy said, have agreed to cough up a license fee of at least $8.25 million for each program – a.k.a. a little more than half of what CBS was paying Katie Couric annually to anchor its evening news.

The new Emmy contract calls for ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC to continue to broadcast the trophy show on a “wheel rotation,” starting with Fox this year, followed by ABC, CBS, then NBC, in that order – just so you know when you’ll next see an NBC late-night comic hosting.

The new contract allows each network the right to review the award categories and the manner of presentation of the awards, the academy said.

The networks have long wanted to streamline or dump some of the Emmy show’s categories.

A couple of years ago all hell broke loose at Summer TV Press Tour 2009 when CBS held a Q&A session so TV critics could ask questions about plans to “time-shift” eight awards in categories that did not involve the celebrities that TV viewers tune in to see, decked out in all their borrowed-stuff splendor. Like TV writers, for instance.

The plan was to hand out eight trophies before the broadcast began, and show the taped acceptance speeches minus the long walk up to the dais, and, hopefully, the thanking of lawyers, agents, and personal trainers. TV critics were outraged. Nominees were, too. It ended badly.

The broadcast networks also have had their eye on some of the so-called “longform” – a.k.a. made-for-TV movies and miniseries -- derbies that are included in the trophy show. The broadcast networks argue that those categories send viewers away. That’s because the nominees come mostly from pay cable networks – HBO tends to dominate the longform races. The majority of TV viewers have never seen and sometimes never even heard of the nominees in a longform category, broadcasters argue.

The academy’s annual Primetime Awards ceremony is actually a two-night affair of trophy dispensing but only the “glam” categories make it to the broadcast night. Broadcast suits would like to see those longform derbies moved to the other night, which is usually shown on cable, in an edited-down form.

Pay cable suits, on the other hand, argue that their nominated longform projects provide most of Emmy show’s much needed star wattage – you don’t see Al Pacino or Tom Hanks, for instance, showing up to the Emmy ceremony because they’re starring in, or executive produced, a broadcast TV series that’s nominated for best sitcom.

Because this new contract took so long to pound out, it’s too late for Fox to take its little hatchet to the show this year. Instead, they’ve hired Mark Burnett to try to make it watchable, as executive producer of the Fox broadcast in mid-September. He’s already produced some MTV Movie Awards telecasts and the People’s Choice Awards orgy of excess.

Good luck, Mark!

By  |  02:07 AM ET, 05/05/2011

 
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