Commentary

Will Emmy's Marketing Value Swing Back To Broadcasters -- Or Just Swing?

Emmy marketing is coming fast and furious these days. Everything, it seems, can get a crack at some nominations, if not awards. What’s the value of those honors these days?

Broadcast ratings are falling, cable ratings are improving slightly, and syndication continues to have ups and downs. Awards can help everyone sell TV shows to consumers.

The television business press, especially the daily trades, have been the recipients of big marketing efforts for all sorts of programs -- everything from AMC’s “Mad Men” to CBS’ “Big Bang Theory” to Food Network’s “Food Network Star” to History’s “The Bible” to Lifetime’s “Steel Magnolias.”

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ big awards take place in mid-September on CBS, just before the start of the TV season. As usual, many wonder whether repeated winners will give up their crowns to new shows.

AMCs’ “Mad Men” had a run of four years as best drama before Showtime’s “Homeland” took the top spot last year. ABC’s “Modern Family” has now won three times as best comedy. Will much change here? One can be sure a special segment on the departed James Gandolfini will have a special place.

Some special marketing efforts:

  • AMC has been using its own airwaves to offer “For Your Consideration” vignettes of special key dramatic -- or comedic -- “Mad Men” moments.
  • In May, Warner Bros. started distributing 11 different tote bags at Los Angeles-area farmers’ markets and other key locations featuring graphics of “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Following,” “2 Broke Girls,” “Arrow,” “The Mentalist,” “The Middle,” “Mike & Molly,” “Person Of Interest,” “Revolution,” “Suburgatory” and “Two And A Half Men.”  Warner also provided a full-wrapped Airstream trailer featuring a number of logos from its shows.

The TV Academy is always in a difficult spot -- looking to talk up the best of TV programming while offering surprises and anything new. This has been the case since it started giving out trophies.

No matter. For big TV studios, it is still a big deal to generate improved visibility -- not just with Emmy voters but with fans.

Overall, much will be expected -- but much may remain the same. For years, critics have complained that premium cable services like HBO continue to rack up big awards. Now ad-supported cable networks are also regularly picking up lots of Emmy hardware, if not at least some nominations. All that can be used -- in turn -- for other marketing efforts to keep fans or to generate new interest.

Looking for a big surprise? Mainstream broadcast networks, having been continuously slighted, might say this year: “Hey, isn’t this the new golden age of TV? How come we don’t get a turn?”

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