At Long Last: Emmys For YouTube Shorts

The CableACE Awards, in the shape of the Ace of Spades, were doled out from 1978 to 1997 and were, in truth, not much of a deal. Neither was cable.  I don’t think you could give an Emmy to outstanding “M*A*S*H” repeats.

After the ACES folded cable shows were entered into television’s Emmy Award competition. Today, cable shows pretty much own the franchise, for Primetime Emmys anyway. It is generous, and probably stupid, that a broadcast network always airs the ceremony that annually documents their collective diminished presence.  

Next fall, when the Primetime Emmys happen again, short form videos, like the ones seen on YouTube, will be eligible for an award from the Television Academy, it was announced earlier this week and it’s widely seen as proof that the big foot of streaming is starting to kick traditional television to the side.

There is nothing primetime-ish about YouTube, of course. It is viewable 24/7. But then again, nowadays you can say the same thing about television, too. I rarely watch “live” television dramas or comedies (except for the Republican debates). It was kind of nostalgic to see ABC try to build up viewership for its new, truly stupid sitcom, “The Real O’Neals,” by bookending episodes before and after its established hit “Modern Family.” That’s a trick that worked in the days before. . . well, in the days before millions of Americans stopped watching TV shows on day and date.



The new attention to short form is good and inevitable, but if it was a true competition, it would end up with a sea of nominations in every category because there are just a load of streaming video makers. Maker Studios alone claims 55,000 independent creator partners. StyleHaul, by one account, has 4,600 channels but that number changes as fast as the “national debt clock” races ahead.

“Channels” and “creators” seem to be tricky words in the streaming business, but here’s the bottom line: There are lots of them, and many of the channels are very thinly viewed. I’d predict that even if it 5% entered,  judges would be under siege.  But up ‘til now, the handlers for the Webbys and Streamys (and the Shortys!) found a way. The Television Academy demands entrants have six episodes, of 15 minutes or less, a high enough limbo stick plenty should be able to get in. 

These awards, the first time as least, won’t be shown on the primetime program. They’ll be among the awards given out in a ceremony held earlier to handle more esoteric (read that, less interesting)  categories.

Bruce Rosenblum, the chairman of the Television Academy and its CEO, said in a statement “Our board of governors felt that this expansion of short form categories begins the process of ensuring that Emmy-worthy creativity will be rewarded, irrespective of format or platforms.” It certainly creates a way for the Emmy brand to ensure that when all of the biggest studios and networks move over more resources and effort toward short-form streaming, Emmy will be there, waiting.  Everybody’s getting in line.

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