Television Academy Chairman Bruce Rosenblum Defends Emmy’s 113 Categories

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The Television Academy has not only transformed their North Hollywood-based campus with a brand new theater complex, they are transforming the awards themselves as evidenced by this morning’s gargantuan announcement of nominees in a whopping – and record – 113 categories. Can you say “proliferation”? But this morning when I spoke to TV Academy Chairman Bruce Rosenblum shortly after he joined Anthony Anderson and Lauren Graham in announcing just a handful of these freshly minted Emmy nominees in their new Wolf Theatre, he didn’t seem too concerned that it may be ballooning out of control.

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The fact is, to accommodate all of this the Academy’s Board of Governors approved, for the first time, splitting the Creative Arts Emmys into two separate shows that will take place on Saturday, September 10 and Sunday, September 11 with matching Governors Balls, followed a week later by the ABC telecast of the Primetime Emmys on September 18,  with an identical Governors Ball following that. Additionally the Creative Arts shows will be combined into a single broadcast to air that weekend on FXX. Too much? “I wouldn’t say there are too many awards,” said Rosenblum. “I think the awards are evolving to reflect the type of work being done by our members. To remain vibrant and relevant as an organization and a contest you need to constantly update the awards you are presenting. There will always be actor, actress and drama and comedy series, but when you get into the Creative Arts awards they reflect the changing industry and changing landscape, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.” He says he thinks the multiple Emmy shows will be executed well, and if they are will be a positive experience for all.

Rosenblum reports the membership of the Academy now numbers 22,000 as a result of a concerted effort to recruit new members and keep it all in line with what is happening in the business. About 20,000 of those members are also eligible to vote, and he told me the online balloting was up 20% over last year, and that there was a double-digit increase in submissions.

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Asked if the Emmy telecast rights might expand behind the current wheel of the four broadcast networks who take turns airing the Primetime Emmy show, the Chairman said it was too early since the contract with the nets still has a couple of years to go. But the subject certainly could come up. ABC is airing this year on September 18 with Jimmy Kimmel as host. The latter was one of the network’s 35 nominations, down from last year, as all the other broadcast nets saw their nominations decline as well (NBC actually stayed steady with 41). All four of them trailed leaders HBO, FX Networks  and Netflix by a comfortable margin as the latter two saw their nomination counts increase by big numbers.

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So would there be thought on the part of the Broadcast nets to balk at continuing to air the Emmys when it is essentially a commercial for their competition? Rosenblum thinks they will stay on board. “I would expect all four of the broadcast networks would want to sit down and renew the wheel agreement as it currently stands. They have been very generous and I wouldn’t expect that to change going forward,”  he said. But bottom line is the networks NOT airing Emmys this year are pointing big guns at it which could damage the ratings. NBC has their Sunday night football game, a big one between the Vikings and the Packers, while CBS is programming a hot button miniseries about Jon Benet Ramsey.

Rosenblum  says competition is healthy.”You can’t avoid football. If you do the Emmys in September, even if you do it on a Monday night, you can’t avoid football,” he said adding again that the broadcast networks have been very supportive of the Academy and that the wheel agreement has been very favorable to the Academy. “We appreciate everything they have done for us,” he says diplomatically. But you still can’t deny that in the two marquee Emmy categories of Drama and Comedy series  only two broadcast network shows – both ABC comedies Black-ish  and Modern Family – managed to get nominated out of 14 combined contenders.

64th Primetime Emmy Awards - Backstage & Audience

Emmy Executive Producer Don Mischer also reiterated that, unlike the Oscars which usually faces reruns, ABC’s rival networks were not holding back on the competition for the show he is producing again this year. “They are going after us. There used to be a time when everyone on the wheel kind of had respect. They knew their time was coming and laid off on the hard competition. Those times are gone,” he told me. Mischer though is optimistic about the Emmy show prospects after seeing the nominations this morning. “We are really happy in general. It is very inclusive. There’s a lot of diversity reflected in the nominations and I think that makes things a little more unpredictable. We are hoping we get emotional wins, like Viola Davis last year, or surprise wins, but these are things you can’t easily produce,” he laughed.

Speaking of diversity Rosenblum is happy with what the members have served up this year. Unlike the Oscars a large percentage of acting nominees are non-white. “Our members did a great job. Over 400 scripted series and on top of that all the limited series and movies  but the cream really did rise to the top,” he said noting the new entrants like Master Of None, Black-ish, Mr. Robot and The Americans in the Comedy and Drama Series categories. “Diversity is certainly front and center, but diversity is only a reflection of employment. You can’t get nominated if you didn’t get employed, so as the networks, studios and producers begin to expand the workforce both in front of and behind the camera to people of color, and to women, let’s not forget women, I think you will continue to see all these great achievements recognized by our membership.”

As for Mischer, a true veteran of live shows like the Emmys  Oscars and Olympic Opening Ceremonies, he and his producers Charlie Haykel and Juliane Hare are looking at the immediate future and the task at hand. “We are at the starting line, the gun just fired, and the race begins,” he said.

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