TV networks, studios get creative for Emmy season

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In the battle for Emmy glory, the networks and studios are getting more creative with their campaigns.

A large Emmy statue lies on the red carpet in preparation for the 58th annual Primetime Emmy awards at the Shrine auditorium in Los Angeles August 26, 2006. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Whether it’s fallout from the Hollywood writers strike, a push to be more eco-friendly, or the recession -- or all three -- studios are cutting costs this year by going online more than ever before.

While studios had put individual episodes online before, Showtime this year became the first to put full seasons of its shows -- including “Dexter” and “Weeds” -- on the Web for TV academy members’ viewing. The network previously shook up the Emmy campaign process in 2005 when it sent out the full season of “Huff” two months after it premiered; the low-rated dramatic comedy ended up getting seven Emmy nominations.

“If the distribution and marketing can be accomplished in an economical and ecological way and also preserves our copyrights -- everyone wins,” said Showtime publicist Richard Licata.

Along with cutting down on piracy, another advantage to streaming online is that it’s easier to keep tabs on the number of viewings, something impossible with mailed-out DVD.

On Showtime’s site, Licata said, more than 48,000 episodes have been streamed by 5,000 unique viewers, or 36% of the entire academy membership, since March 7. The site will be up through the judging period ending in August.

The 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place in Los Angeles on September 21; nominations will be announced on July 17.

With the exception of 20th Century Fox TV, which is sending out DVDs only, all the other major TV studios are using a combination of mailers and streaming episodes online.

By streaming, companies can avoid paying the $1,500 per-episode service fee the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences requires on “for your consideration” mailers as well as the DVD replication, postage and packaging costs. One studio source said that mailing out one DVD to the academy’s 14,000 members can cost close to $100,000 when all expenses are tallied up.

For CBS/CBS Paramount, select episodes of 13 series as well as the mini “Comanche Moon” are available online.

“This is a good way to reach academy members and also not wastefully send out DVDs,” CBS Paramount publicist Lauri Metrose said. “We know not all academy members are online, but they are definitely moving in that direction.”

Warner Bros. Television Group is taking the green theme one step further with a “hybrid campaign,” streaming eight shows online and also targeting select peer groups with DVD mailings consisting of recyclable materials. After viewing the episodes, those who receive the mailings can simply peel off a label and put the prepaid-postage package back into the mail, where it will be shipped to Green Disk, recycler of what it calls “technotrash” -- i.e., DVDs.

“We’re making a major effort to be environmentally conscious and also save money,” studio publicist Sharan Magnuson said.

She said WBTV’s strategy was shaped by the strike. Since the seasons of all freshman series were cut short by the 100-day walkout, WBTV is sending out screeners of all seven of its first-year shows.

“To do seven shows was a lot for us, but we felt it was the right thing to do based on the fact that the new series didn’t necessarily have a chance to reach everybody,” Magnuson said.

The Disney-ABC Television Group is launching its own “for your consideration” Web site, which features a total of 25 shows, two episodes of each.

“It’s far more convenient,” said publicist Sharon Williams. “Anyplace you have Internet access and a laptop becomes a screening room.”

Universal Media Studios -- which two years ago introduced iTunes free-download cards for episodes of such shows as “The Office” and “House” -- has tapped ad firm BBDO to help with its Emmy campaign this time.

“We feel like all our shows have such Emmy momentum, we really wanted to capitalize on that this year,” UMS president Katherine Pope said.

The studio is using an election theme for its campaign, tying it to the presidential race. UMS is mailing out screeners this month that will include buttons featuring slogans like “Baldwin-Fey, All the Way!” (“30 Rock”), “Believe in Steve” (“The Office”) and “Get a Clue, Vote SVU” (“Law & Order:


The studio also is preparing an ad for the trades and Emmy magazine that encourages those who are eligible to become academy members to sign up and “exercise your Emmy rights” to vote if they haven’t already done so.

“It’s definitely a little bit irreverent but also very in keeping with our shows,” Pope said.

For its part, Sony is planning to include its original content produced for the Internet and mobile platforms in its campaign, which will include mailers as well as online streaming.

That includes promoting such shortform digital content as the series “Buried Alive” and Crackle’s Penn Jillette Web series “Penn Says.”

Sony said it actually is spending a bit more on its Emmy campaign this year than in 2007 because it has more content to push.

Other players also are shaking up their Emmy campaigns.

A&E Network is launching two Web sites, becoming the first to offer an exclusive “for your consideration” site for iPhone and iTouch users.

Bravo is making its series and specials available for download online and will offer screenings on-air -- including 214 programming hours across all dayparts -- eliminating “29,387 pounds in solid waste” and saving 315 trees.

Even the WWE has stepped up its game, scheduling its first academy screening for May 28 for its “Tribute to the Troops” special, followed by a Q&A.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter