Awards

Peak TV Leads to Peak Emmy Awards Pitches, and They’re All Tripping Over Each Other

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It’s daunting trying to cover the Emmy race in an era of so much prestige TV, just as I’m sure it’s challenging for the armies of publicists trying to get journalists interested in writing about their clients’ work.

I’ve never had to turn away so many pitches on worthwhile shows, performers and producers as I’ve had to this year. Sure, there are limited slots in most categories for Emmy nominations, but there’s also a limit to how many podcasts I can produce, how many features our team can write and even how many panels any of us can moderate.

In TV, there didn’t used to be such a thing as an “awards consultant” or a “head of awards.” It just fell on someone in PR or marketing to make sure submissions were sent to the Television Academy and For Your Consideration ads were purchased. But now there are so many TV awards consultants spending a good chunk of the year on campaigns that we’re often pitched by three or four different people on the same show or star. There’s usually an awkward back-and-forth as we figure out who is covering what, and it often leads to some contenders being over-covered and others being under-covered. It’s not a perfect system.

“There are too many award competitions,” concedes one consultant. “Award publicists and consultants are always sprinting to get their clients submitted, then to work on raising awareness to garner votes. We are so grateful to the award editors/reporters for coverage because we know how busy they are and how much content is out there competing for the same pages.”

This person admits that consultants “butt up against each other in the pitching process; one agency is pushing for talent, another is pushing for below-the-line. Who takes precedence? And there is only a finite amount of space and outlets to get your client in.

“In the best possible world, agencies for one network or streamer should work together on titles with a clear distinction of who is handling what, so we don’t stumble over each other.”

So here is my blanket apology to all the reps who feel their client isn’t getting the love they deserve: They probably aren’t — and might have been a contender in an earlier era. But this is Peak TV, folks, and a lot more fantastic performances are going to be snubbed than ever end up in the nomination queue.

I’m not sure there’s an easy solution to the crunch. Produce fewer shows? Trigger Emmy inflation by blowing up the number of categories or nominees? I’ve supported an expansion of drama and comedy series (and now, perhaps limited series as well) to 10 nominees for several years, and I still stand behind it. It’s a way to increase the mix of shows that are considered for the top prizes while still recognizing category stalwarts.

To get a seasoned perspective, I turned to the guy who helped start TV awards madness: Richard Licata, who made HBO a player in the early 1990s by creating what were then-unheard-of campaigns to get the pay cabler noticed. Licata has some hot takes, calling the current situation “a certifiable awards emergency.”

“Yes, these competitions are about the best comedies, dramas and docs in the TV universe — and thankfully for audiences there’s a golden age treasure trove of them,” he says. “What has insidiously crept into the process are ersatz award consultants who convince unsuspecting clients that spending their money wantonly on the glut of FYC events is the ticket to a statuette.

“But, he adds, “how many of them walk away, scratching their heads — defeated, empty-handed and fired?”

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