Amid an announcement that nomination submissions are up by 15 percent, the Television Academy announces a set of new rules that will immediately go into effect with the 2020 Emmys. The rules include nominee expansion in the top awards, a sliding scale of nominees in all other categories, and the elimination of the 2 percent tie rule.
Wednesday night, the Television Academy announced a handful of new rules that will directly impact the upcoming Emmys. The TV landscape includes a growing number of broadcast, cable, premium, and streaming networks; just this year the number of submissions went up by an astounding 15 percent. To accommodate the expansive era of television, the Television Academy made the decision to expand the number of nominees for Comedy and Drama Series to eight nominees, “regardless of the number of submissions received.”
The Television Academy also released a new set of rules that directly affects the nomination process for the 122 other Primetime Emmy Awards:
“To align the nominations selection process across all awards categories and to allow for more inclusiveness in the recognition of excellence, the number of nominees per category will now be based on the number of submissions in each category.”
Essentially, the number of submissions in any given category will directly impact the number of nominations allowed in any given year. The new rule came with the following criteria on how the number of nominations will be determined:
1-19 submissions: A sliding scale between zero to 4 nominations
20-80 submissions: 5 nominations
81-160 submissions: 6 nominations
161-240 submissions: 7 nominations
> 240 submissions: 8 nominations
Along with the new sliding scale the new rules also vaguely call for “parity” across the paired performer categories and eliminates the former 2 percent rule.
Without clarification on the rule for parity, it is assumed that even though nominees are now determined on a sliding scale, partnered categories (take Lead Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series for example) must have the same number of nominations even if they vastly differ in the number of submissions. For example the new rules would have meant that last year Lead Actor in a Comedy Series would feature six nominees while Lead Actress in a Comedy Series would only feature five – but because the lead actor race featured six nominees lead actress would also be allowed six.
The Television Academy also eliminated the former 2 percent rule that led to more nominees in crowded races, most notably the eight-way race for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2015, 2018, and 2019.
“Finally, this new rule eliminates the previous 2 percent rule, which specified that in categories with five nominees, if the fifth and sixth top vote-getters were within 2 percent of each other, both would be nominated.”
For a link to the full press release click here.
The first round of voting is still scheduled to begin on July 2nd with the 72nd Primetime Emmy Award Nominations announced on July 28th.
Why These Changes?
As the new rules were announced it led to a lot of confusion and frustration across the board. What inspired these changes? Alongside the rule changes Frank Scherma, Television Academy Chairman and CEO, released this explanation:
“The increase in submissions is a reflection of the number of new voices, new television platforms and a tremendous growth in content from existing platforms across our industry. Despite production suspension resulting from COVID-19, there is a wealth of excellent work submitted for this year’s competition.”
How Will This Affect the 2020 Emmys?
With an impossibly massive television lineup to reward, it was clear that the Emmys needed to make some changes. Increasing Drama and Comedy Series to eight nominees is deserved (but maybe not this year) but why not the other categories? Are there not seven or eight deserving lead actresses in a limited series this year? Or eight deserving music supervisors?
We won’t know how many submissions each category received until the nominating ballots are published on July 2nd, but this week’s rule changes were at least partially inspired by the fact that 2020 submissions are up by 15 percent. That is great news for outliers hoping to break into the race but is 15 percent enough to make a difference?
Last year there were 44 submissions for Lead Actor in a Limited Series and 50 submissions for Lead Actress in a Limited Series which means that each category would have only seen 5 nominees. A 15 percent increase in submissions doesn’t do much which means we are likely to only have 5 nominees this year.
In fact, a 15 percent increase doesn’t change the number of nominees in most of the major acting categories. It’s much more likely that we’ll see the same six nominees in the lead and supporting acting races without even the possibility of a tie expanding the race. Meanwhile guest performers can overstuff the ballot and we could see more nominations there. But is that fair to series regulars who are working tirelessly season after season?
There is also the possibility that the new sliding scale might negatively impact the number of nominees of color. With these rules, the limited series lead acting races would have only featured five nominees. Would more ensemble players like Aunjanue Ellis, Niecy Nash, or even eventual winner Jharrell Jerome have even been nominated? What about Mahershala Ali who gave a great performance on a show that was barely recognized in any other category? Last year, only 20 shows were submitted for Outstanding Variety Talk Show. With only five allowed nominees would Trevor Noah be the one at risk of being cut?
Another side effect of these new rules to keep an eye on is that it might directly impact the number of craft nominees. Often, the craft categories receive far less submissions than the acting races. Why should costume designers, sound mixers, and VFX artists receive less nominations than some of the primetime ceremony categories?
It will be interesting to see how networks react to these new rules? It is very possible that their Emmy strategies take a surprising turn. In the past, the smarter networks strategically submitted a smaller number of performances and episodes for consideration to increase their chance of standing out. Now we might see networks saturate each category with too many submissions in the hope that it triggers more nominees. That would be a chaotic strategy, but one that might be worth it if it means more nominees.
Why Does the Television Academy Hate Limited Series?
The competing limited series have continually gotten the short end of the stick. While nominations for drama and comedy series have gradually risen from six, seven, to now eight nominees there have always been only five nominees for limited series. Even when the genre consistently produces some of the most thought-provoking and political work of the year. Those that follow the Emmy race have called for the field to be expanded, but for whatever reason the Board of Governors refuses to budge.
Instead these new rules negatively impact the acting and craft categories as well. There’s a chance that the lead acting races will only see five nominees each. Which of this year’s frontrunners will be unfairly left out because of these new rules? It’s hard to imagine both Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon make into the lead actress lineup. What about actors like Morgan Spector, Jeremy Irons, Jeremy Pope, and Chris Evans who are all on the cusp of a lead actor nomination? All of their chances have certainly gone down.
This year is particularly confusing. There was no shortage of bingeworthy limited series to consider that could have benefited from an expanded category. Shows like Defending Jacob, Normal People, and Unorthodox that deserve to be in the conversation. It would have been the perfect year to open up the race and as a result welcome in exciting, new perspectives. Instead the comedy series lineup, one that was already stretched thin for seven deserving nominees, now has to find an eighth.
Readers, what do you think of the new rule changes?