Commentary

As Emmy Looks To Small And Mighty, Will Cable TV Advertisers Get Bump?

Little entertainment is big award news, and in that light, are the Emmys trying to become more like the Oscars?

Small or independent style feature films have been the heroes of those Academy Award voters for nearly a decade now. And now apparently this equation works for the Emmys as well.

With the likes of AMC's "Mad Men" getting a heap of nominations, the thinly viewed, but critically acclaimed show can make a case that the small screen -- and moderate to low-rated advertising-supported cable programs -- can do just as well as the big guys. FX is also in the hunt, as its "Damages," starring Glenn Close, grabbed a number of nominations as well.

HBO, of course, has been strong here in the past with the likes of "The Sopranos" and all its high-class, high-production-value miniseries and movies. Though the pay network, which is only in about a third of U.S. TV-owning homes, has seen better days, it still led all networks with nominations this year. The irony in the "Mad Men" situation was that HBO passed on the show, which is executive-produced by Matthew Weiner, a former "Sopranos" writer.

In 2002, FX broke ground, with "The Shield"'s piling up Emmy nominations and Michael Chiklis ringing up an award as best actor. Now "Mad Men" one-ups that, with nominations coming from all directions -- a whopping 16 nods from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS). The fact that AMC's other thinly viewed show, "Breaking Bad," got a nomination for actor Bryan Cranston, is another sign of big things to come for basic cable.

Things are changing for cable TV advertisers and for ad-supported cable networks' marketing efforts. Advertisers can now glom on to cable network's critically acclaimed shows more easily (although, for its part, AMC does sell a limited amount of inventory in the "Mad Men" series, still clinging in part to its advertising-free programming roots of years ago). Cable networks, in kind, can stir up on-air promotion with these laurels.

It's not that high-rated TV shows aren't in the mix. ABC has "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy," and Fox has "House" regularly awarded with TV's top artistic honors. But gone are the days when NBC's "Frasier" and "West Wing," relatively high-rated shows in their time, would also get big artistic awards.

Now the ratings-award formula has changed -- even at the broadcast networks. The most-nominated show among the broadcast networks this year was NBC's "30 Rock," with 17 nominations. It ranked 113th out of 220 shows last year, averaging a 2.3 Nielsen Media Research rating among 18-49 viewers.

ATAS, in looking to boost its own ratings for its Emmy award show, has said the key is pushing for those small TV shows that have yet to be discovered by most TV viewers.

This means it is doing its job
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