New Emmy Rules Aimed at ‘More Inclusiveness’ Will Reduce the Number of Nominees This Year

30 categories will have more nominees this year than they did last year, but 36 others will have fewer nominees

This year’s Primetime Emmy Awards will have slightly fewer nominees than last year’s, according to the ballots posted online for Emmy voters at the start of voting last week.

The slate of nominees will include increased numbers in three different acting categories and in the Outstanding Comedy Series category, which will have the biggest possible slate of eight nominees. But the number of nominees will shrink over last year’s totals in more categories than they’ll expand, resulting in a small net loss.

The change is due to new rules that were designed, according to a Television Academy press release, “to allow for more inclusiveness in the recognition of excellence.” It may still fulfill that goal, depending on what programs and people are nominated, but it won’t increase the sheer numbers unless ties increase the number of nominees in at least half a dozen categories.

The new rules specify that a category with 19 or fewer contenders will have between one and four nominees; a category with 20 to 80 contenders will have five nominees; 81 to 160 contenders will yield six nominees; 161 to 240 nominees will mean seven nominees; and more than 240 nominees will cause the category to hit a full eight nominees.

Those calculations will replace the old standard in which most categories consisted of five nominees, but could be expanded by the use of the “2% rule,” which allowed additional contenders to become nominees if their vote totals were within 2% of the fifth-place finisher. Last year, more than two dozen categories were expanded because of ties and the 2% rule.

The new rule dispenses with the 2% rule so the size of a category is determined by the number of entries. And the posted ballots reveal that — barring ties, which could still increase the size of a category — 50 of the 123 categories at this year’s Emmys will contain the same number of nominees as those categories did last year. An additional 30 categories will have one or two more nominees than they did in 2019, but 36 categories will have one or two fewer nominees.

Those rules will lead to 13 categories with four or fewer nominees, 57 categories with five, 33 categories with six, six categories with seven nominees and seven categories with the maximum, eight.

In seven other categories, which are chosen by juries and do not post the list of contenders online, it’s not yet possible to know the number of nominees.

The maxed-out categories with eight nominees will be Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, which had nearly 300 entries, and the supporting actor and actress in comedy and drama series categories, which had between 241 entries (Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series) and 455 entries (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, the single category with the most entries). Two other categories, Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series, only qualified for six and seven nominees, respectively, but they are covered by a separate rule that gives those two marquee categories the maximum number of nominees, eight.

The high-profile races that will be expanded by the new rules include three directing categories, three acting categories and one drama writing category. Downsized categories include variety-series directing, four acting categories (including lead actor and actress in a limited series or movie), five writing categories and eight program categories, including variety talk series, variety sketch series, live variety special and structured reality, unstructured reality and competition programs.

Areas that will gain the most under the new system include casting, which will go from five to six nominees in both of its categories; and sound editing and sound mixing, which will gain nominees in five categories and not lose them in any.

Areas that will lose the most nominees include interactive, which will lose nominees in three categories, including one that combined two previous categories; visual effects and stunt work, both areas that will lose nominees across the board; and writing, which will lose nominees in five categories and only gain them in one.

If you stick to the 27 categories that are given out during the Primetime Emmys telecast, six of those categories will have more nominees than last year, and 10 will have fewer nominees. The other 11 will remain unchanged.

Steve Pond

Steve Pond

Awards Editor • • Twitter: @stevepond


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