The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences knows that it will stage its 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards on September 18 at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
But at this point the Academy doesn't know what network will air the show, how much money it will receive for the broadcast rights, who will produce the telecast or host, how many awards will be handed out. (That's last year's host, Jimmy Fallon, at left.)
In marked contrast to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which recently signed a six-year extension of its Academy Awards television deal a full two years before that deal expired, the Television Academy is currently heading into the thick of its awards season without a television contract.
Its last contract, which was signed in 2002, expired after the Emmy show last fall, for which ATAS was paid $7.5 million.
The result is a "mounting problem" for the Academy, wrote the Hollywood Reporter's Alex Ben Block in a Friday story on the stalled negotiations, which he said were due to network insistence on trimming the number of categories presented on the Primetime Emmys telecast.
The Academy said in a statement that issue of categories is "in no way delaying the negotiations with the networks."
Unlike the Oscars, which have had a stable home on ABC for decades, the Emmys traditionally rotate between ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Ratings have fallen by more than 30 percent since the last contract was signed, and broadcast network executives are known to be dissatisfied with how dominant cable channels like HBO have become at the Emmys.
A source close to CBS's Les Moonves said that he is particularly unhappy with the declining number of awards won by broadcast network shows.
At last year's Primetime Emmys, HBO led all networks with 25 awards. ABC was runner-up with 18, followed by Fox, CBS and NBC with 11, 10 and eight awards, respectively. AMC's "Mad Men" won the Best Drama award for the third consecutive year (creator Matthew Weiner, right).
The Television Academy, of course, has no real way to keep "Mad Men" or HBO's movies from winning, aside from creating separate categories for broadcast and cable. And that's hardly possible, given the fact that the Emmys already stage a separate show, the Creative Arts Emmys, to give out the vast majority of the awards in its more than 100 primetime categories.
Under the old contract, TV Academy COO Alan Perris told TheWrap last year, the networks obligated the Academy to present 26 specific categories on the Primetime Emmys telecast. (A separate agreement with the DGA and WGA also spelled out which categories could be moved into the Creative Arts show.)
Admitting that he had received pressure to change the televised categories – including pushes to add new categories to the TV lineup – Perris said that no changes were possible under the existing contract, but added, "When we negotiate a new deal, anything's possible."
But those negotiations have yet to result in a deal, and the clock is ticking on assembling a production team for September's Emmy show.
"If you bring in real pros and they find a good host, they can pull it off in the time they’ve got," said one veteran from the production side of awards shows. "But for a show like this, this is pretty late not to have a production team."
The stalemate comes at a time when the Paley Center for Media has announced its own annual television awards show, which will launch in May 2012, during the television networks' upfront presentations. The newly-formed Broadcast Television Journalists Association will hold the first Critics Choice Television Awards in June; the show is patterned after the Critics Choice Movie Awards, though it will not be televised this year.