The Emmys announced some big rule changes for the future of the television awards show and the tweaks are good news for digital content, streaming and cable.
The Television Academy announced a list of changes to the Emmy categories Wednesday, including the introduction of new categories to recognize short form digital content, as well the expansion of previously established categories for scripted series. Unlike the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has announced changes to its membership rules in response to criticism of the organization's lack of diversity, the Television Academy's adjustments seem designed to keep pace with a rapidly evolving television landscape.
The biggest change was the expansion of awards for short form digital content to four distinct categories: comedy or drama; variety; reality/non-fiction; and animation. The categories will be presented at the Creative Arts Emmys, a ceremony that takes place annually the weekend before the Primetime Emmy Awards. The categories will allow the Emmys to honor much more online content, a move that should position the Emmys to compete with other short form content awards shows that have emerged in recent years. Meanwhile, more than twice as many online content creators on platforms like YouTube will have the opportunity to earn recognition.
However, television fans might be more concerned with the implications of a few of the other changes introduced by the Television Academy. In particular, the number of nominees for directing and writing in both the comedy and drama series categories will be expanded from five to six. That means more opportunities for lesser known cable series and series from still-fighting-for-legitimacy streaming services.
For example, FX has repeatedly called on the Emmys to recognize its drama "The Americans," a show that receives near universal acclaim from critics, but has struggled to draw in a substantial amount of viewers through three seasons. Awards can be a key platform to gain recognition and publicity, so the network is eager to see the show get its due.
The Television Academy is also doing away with ranked voting, in which voters rank their ballot choices and nominees receive points for second and third place positions on ballots. Ranked voting gives nominees with a broader appeal a better chance to win because those nominees tend to pick up many second and third place votes, while more polarizing series can be first on some voters' ballots and last on others. Last year, "Game of Thrones," one of the most popular shows on television, won the award for outstanding drama series. It may have a more difficult time repeating under the new rules, while more niche cable and streaming shows, such as "Better Call Saul," "House of Cards," or "Transparent," may have a better chance at taking home the top awards in the drama and comedy categories.
The television landscape has undergone a lot of dramatic changes over the past few years, including a redefining of what constitutes television in the first place. With the Emmys rule changes, it is clear the Television Academy is trying not to fall behind. Emerging cable series and streaming services are primed to benefit.