It was bound to happen at some point: The Oscars and the Emmys are about to collide. The decision to push next year’s Academy Awards all the way to April 25, puts it smack dab in the middle of Emmy campaign season.
That’s going to make it, well, a mess. “I am terrified,” says one executive who handles both film and TV awards season for their network. “We’re going to be stretched so thin.”
That’s true both physically and financially, as Oscar and Emmy campaign events occur at the same time. According to the revised Academy Awards calendar, nominations voting for the Oscars will take place between March 5 and 10 (with noms announced on March 15), while final voting will happen between April 15 and 20.
In recent years, Emmy FYC events have started creeping into late February and early March. That hasn’t been a problem with the Oscars, as that show has also been moving earlier and earlier (all the way to Feb. 9 this year). The last time the Oscars aired in April was 1988 — and there really wasn’t such a thing as “Emmy campaigning,” since it was just the Big Three networks and (barely) Fox. (Coincidentally, that was the first year cable was allowed to enter.)
But by mid-April 2021, as the Oscar race is coming down to the wire, the Emmy FYC calendar will have been fully underway for months. And there’s likely to be a gridlock of events pulling Hollywood types back and forth.
But here’s the part that perhaps will cause the most stress among Emmy campaigners: As go the Oscars, so goes the rest of the winter awards season. At press time, no one else had yet announced a change, but I’ve got to imagine the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice, the SAG Awards, and the guild events thrown by the WGA, DGA, PGA and other artisans will want to slide into spring, closer to the Oscars. [UPDATE: In the weeks since this story was first written for Variety’s print magazine, the Globes has moved to Feb. 28, while the Critics Choice Awards are now March 7. Some guilds have also moved their dates, but we’re still waiting on the major ones including the SAG Awards.]
Most of those awards include a TV component, making scheduling more difficult. No one will want to hold an Emmy FYC event if many of the potential audience members are going to be busy watching — or attending — another awards show.
“You’re kind of competing a bit for the same audience when you’re talking to the guilds, since the guild members make up the Emmy peer groups,” notes an awards exec. “They’re going to be taxed as well. It just makes for such a long season.”
That also means having to run those winter TV award campaigns while simultaneously launching the Emmy campaign — which is a lot of repeat advertising. But networks and studios could take advantage of the overlap by holding events that campaign for both Emmys and also guilds.
“I mean, maybe it could work out. Maybe the two will bleed into each other and might have some benefit there,” says the exec, “but I haven’t gotten to that bright side yet. I just need to get through this year!”
This is all assuming, of course, that the world returns to a bit of normalcy and in-person events resume next year. That sure doesn’t feel like a given, however, particularly as we see rates of COVID-19 infection increase across the country. But even if live campaigning doesn’t happen again next year, the fact that Oscar and Emmy season are morphing into one is real — and it might even fuel the debate over what’s a TV show and what’s a movie.
Due to the pandemic, the Motion Picture Academy temporarily suspended the rule that films must be exhibited first in a theater in order to qualify, and at least temporarily will allow movies initially made available through commercial streaming, VOD service or other broadcast. But that exemption is ending as theaters open back up.
Meanwhile, there’s actually a bit more clarity now in the one area where there had been an unusual overlap between Oscars and Emmys: the documentary. A loophole allowed producers and studios behind certain feature-length docs to double dip for both awards, since so many are funded by TV outlets such as HBO, PBS, Nat Geo, ESPN and Netflix.
Last year, Nat Geo’s “Free Solo” won the Oscar for documentary feature, and then went on to pick up seven Emmys, including doc directing. Other documentaries that have been nominated for both Oscars and Emmys include “O.J.: Made in America,” “Icarus” and “RBG.” In 2015, HBO’s “Citizenfour” won both Emmy and Oscar top documentary prizes.
That’s all over now: The TV Academy recently revealed that, effective next year, “programs that have been nominated for an Oscar will no longer be eligible for the Emmys competition.” At least in the doc world, that Oscar-Emmy collision has finally been averted.