You have to feel for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Faced with declining ratings for their prized prime-time Emmy awards program, the Academy has tried everything to increase
viewership. Last year the show went to an extremely wrong place, hosted by an unwieldy five reality TV hosts.
But that was only the start. This year's adjustments, alterations -- as well as
reversals of previous decisions for the TV show -- give the enterprise a misguided, entropic feel that its handlers surely didn't want.
The first wave came when CBS, which is airing the
awards this year, said it needed to move the show because a big afternoon NFL doubleheader might run over, threatening the start of the Emmy Awards broadcast. So a decision was made to
move to an earlier date -- Sept.13, unfortunately.
It turns out that's a big night for another awards show, MTV's, well-rated "Video Music Awards." MTV isn't connected at the hip any longer
to CBS. But TV programming executives try -- at times -- to give everyone some space. It probably doesn't help the Emmys Awards are already an older-skewing show, and no one wanted to give young
viewers a reason not to watch by having the MTV awards on at the same time.
So the decision was made to switch back to the original date, Sept. 20,
with CBS now being flexible with its
"60 Minutes" broadcast that'll bridge football with the awards. Perhaps the Emmys now will at least get some strong viewer lead-in from the NFL game, with hard-to-come-by young and older male
Then word came down that eight key writing and directing categories were to be moved off-air, to streamline the show and make it more entertaining. This would ultimately give TV
fanatics what they really wanted: more airtime for their beloved TV stars.
But after pressure from the big entertainment unions, the Television Academy then decided to reverse itself.
allowing those eight categories to be aired live.
That's two big reversals for the show in the space of a few weeks.
What does this mean? The Emmys are obviously having identity problems. But much of this comes from being pulled in a
few directions -- from behind-the-scenes craftspeople on the one hand, to networks and viewers on the other.
TV advertisers have been ho-hum about the awards for some time -- especially
with declining ratings. Still, the show's numbers are good enough, especially for a single TV show in September, with 30-second commercials priced high -- around the $500,000 mark.
networks still count on the Emmys for some pre-season marketing spin, even though they've complained in recent years that much of that buzz has gone to the likes of pay TV networks such as HBO,
who bag most of the hardware.
Awards shows are always tricky affairs. But older, increasingly lower-rated entertainment awards shows, such as the Emmys, have other issues. Sometimes that
comes from repeated winners in categories for ongoing TV shows. Additionally, some performers like Katherine Heigl of "Grey's Anatomy" don't even want to be included in the nomination process from
time to time. That's not a good sign.
Entropy is theoretically good for TV -- most times. But the end result may mean TV viewers never know where they stand -- in TV land.