By embracing Hollywood, New York’s national academy may begin to put luster back on Emmy gold for syndicators.
Winning a primetime Emmy does not guarantee a TV show long life or great riches, but TV’s marketers have learned how to take a primetime Emmy win and turn it into a promotional bonanza.
The same cannot be said for the daytime Emmys. Nominations were announced last week and, as usual, they seemed a bit irrelevant, especially among the Hollywood syndicators. While syndicators do apply the phrase “Emmy-winning” to their shows, a daytime Emmy win does not carry the same cachet or branding weight as a primetime win. Part of that is because—let’s be honest—daytime TV is not as sexy as primetime TV. The former is Alex Trebek and Judy Sheindlin; the latter, Kiefer Sutherland and Teri Hatcher.
Still, there are other problems that make winning the daytime Emmy seem less valuable to syndicators of talk shows and other first-run programming.
First, the soap operas tend to dominate the proceedings. Last week, four shows were nominated as Outstanding Drama Series. Three of those air on CBS—The Young and the Restless, As the World Turns and Guiding Light—while one, General Hospital, airs on ABC. ABC and CBS have this category so locked up that NBC, which airs younger-skewing soaps Days of Our Lives and Passions, has stopped bidding to air the Daytime Emmy Awards. The soaps will produce the stars for the telecast (April 28 on ABC) and steal every scene. That makes it hard for syndicators and producers of the other shows.
The syndication community also feels like the daytime Emmys are out of touch with what’s on. Three years ago, Buena Vista’s The Wayne Brady Show won for Outstanding Talk Show, beating the highest rated show to hit syndication in years, King World’s Dr. Phil. While Phil’s competitors were pleased as punch to see the good doctor go down, others groused that syndication’s savior deserved to be honored by Emmy.
What’s more, syndication’s biggest name, Oprah Winfrey, hasn’t entered the competition since she won the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ (NATAS) Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. Her eponymous talk show followed suit in 2000. That puts a little tarnish on the statue for whoever wins it. Even if you take home the gold, you still don’t beat daytime’s best, and that’s Oprah.
Finally, there is a disconnect that comes from the fact that the New York-based NATAS handles the Daytime Emmys, even though most daytime shows other than the soaps come out of Los Angeles. Many of NATAS’s members are local TV executives that come to the national organization through local chapters. People who work in TV in Los Angeles tend to belong to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS), the home of the primetime Emmys.
The NATAS members “don’t feel the same connection to your community as members of ATAS,” said one industry executive. “Last year at the Daytime Emmys, only one of the recipients felt enough of a connection to thank the Academy.”
Both NATAS and the North Hollywood-based ATAS are well aware of the disconnect. To repair it, NATAS has been working with its West Coast sibling. This year, for the first time, the Daytime Emmy Awards is moving from New York to Hollywood to be broadcast out of the Kodak Theatre, the same venue that hosts the Oscars and the American Idol finale. That’s about as Hollywood as it gets.
“This will give our Los Angeles colleagues a chance to get more fully engaged,” says Peter Price, NATAS president and CEO.
Two years ago, NATAS and ATAS began hosting joint board dinners. “Both organizations have been trying to get closer for the simple reason that when the Primetime Emmys are about to happen in September and I go to lunch in New York, everyone thinks I must be so busy because it’s Emmy time,” says Price. “Even the smart money at Michael’s doesn’t realize the two are different. But the brand is the Emmys, not NATAS or ATAS.”
NATAS’s challenge is to make syndicators feel as much a part of their awards show as primetime producers, directors and writers feel about the Primetime Emmys. Moving the telecast to Hollywood is a good first step. Whether the genre is soap operas or court shows, serial drama or sitcom, winning an Emmy should be a high honor—and a promotional boon—no matter the daypart.