The TV Academy and CBS have abandoned plans to time-shift several key awards, throwing in the towel on the controversial attempt to shake up the Emmy broadcast.
"This decision was made to mend relationships within the television community and to allow executive producer Don Mischer to focus his full attention on producing the creative elements in the telecast," said TV Academy Chairman-CEO John Shaffner in an statement released by the Academy on Wednesday. "Our goal is to celebrate the year in television, honor excellence and this year’s great achievements with the support of our industry colleagues and our telecast partner, CBS."
The official retreat came less than two hours after TheWrap broke the news that the time-shifting plan was all but dead. CBS and Academy officials refused to comment at the time.
According to multiple television industry insiders familiar with the thinking of CBS and Academy executives, both camps decided that going through with the time-shifting concept for eight awards categories "isn’t worth it," as one source said.
Even though the TV Academy had planned to meet with the Writers Guild this week to discuss the changes, the decision to reverse cours now was made, in part, in order to allow executive producer Don Mischer to adjust plans for his broadcast.
While industry sources sympathetic to the Academy and CBS still believe the planned changes have been misunderstood and politicized, they also concluded that the angst and anger that would have followed if the time-shifting proceeded as planned would not justify the potential benefit — a potentially faster-paced, more entertainment-filled show.
What’s more, with the guilds all but declaring their intention to charge CBS and the TV Academy full price for clips if time-shifting hadn’t been killed, going forward with the plan would have meant spending perhaps $500,000 more in clips fees.
In an upbeat economy, CBS and the Academy might have been willing to accept the hit, but with networks and non-profit organizations alike struggling with budget cuts, such an expenditure would be difficult to swallow.
Also hurting the chances of the time-shift plan: A lack of support from other broadcast networks. There was no rallying behind the concept from other network leaders, leaving CBS out on its own in trying to defend an idea which, if it worked, could benefit other networks which might air the Emmys in the future.
In addition, because no one network has ownership of the Emmys– the way ABC controls the Oscars or NBC has invested in the Golden Globes– there’s not the same incentive for any one network (in this case, CBS) to put itself on the line in defense of controversial changes.
Academy officials had very much wanted to find ways to boost ratings for this year’s Emmy broadcast because its multinetwork "wheel" deal with the four major broadcast networks expires soon.
Indeed, negotiations on a new license agreement are set to begin right after next month’s Emmys, making this year’s Nielsen numbers potentially pivotal in determining how much money the Academy can generate from future broadcasts.
Instead, the time-shifting plan became a referendum on creative respect, with writers and others expressing fears that the TV Academy was not fully appreciating the efforts of scribes in shaping TV shows.
"We’re pleased the Academy listened to the writers’ concerns,” the WGA East said in a statement.
The guild’s L.A. counterpart said, “We appreciate that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has decided to present all 28 awards live on this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards. We look forward to developing a more collaborative relationship between the Writers Guild and the Academy.”
Also in a statement, the DGA said: "We are pleased that the Academy will continue the long-standing tradition of honoring directors and other talent in the live broadcast for our important roles in the creative process of television production."
SAG’s statement read, "We are pleased by the decision of the Academy, John Shaffner, CBS and show executive producer Don Mischer to continue the Emmys’ practice of providing full recognition to the nominees and recipients within the live telecast. We look forward to this year’s show."
While Academy officials maintained that viewers would barely be able to tell the difference between awards presented live and those pre-taped and repackaged, writers and others impacted by the plan didn’t buy it. They also argued that the plan was to snub Emmy-nominated work in order to promote more populist fare often overlooked by Emmy voters.