As the streaming services — Amazon held similar parties — battle with traditional cable and broadcast networks, Hollywood is witnessing Emmy campaigning on a scale that industry executives say they have never seen before. The once-staid season now finds studios approving generous budgets for billboards, mail promotions, parties and dinners with the express purpose of getting shows, actors and writers in front of would-be voters.
“I’ll put a number on it — it’s 10 times crazier,” FX’s chief executive, John Landgraf, said, laughing. “It’s ridiculous.”
At a time when there is more television than ever — there will be more than 450 scripted shows broadcast this year — award jockeying, apparently, is the next logical step among rival networks. Voting for nominations began last week. Nominees for the September ceremony will be announced next month.
The Oscars may have some restrictions on what studios can do to influence would-be voters, but the Emmy hunt has left behind any such restraints.
“For Your Consideration” advertisements have blanketed Los Angeles, appearing on billboards, bus shelters and posters. In a seven-block stretch of Melrose Avenue, there were outdoor ads for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix), “Sarah Silverman: A Speck of Dust” (Netflix), “Transparent” (Amazon), “The Night Of” (HBO), “The Good Fight” (CBS) and “Superstore” (NBC).
“I live in Studio City and drive all the way across town to our office, and I pass at least three ‘Legion’ billboards,” said John Cameron, an executive producer for FX’s “Legion” and “Fargo.” “We’re not even on the air anymore and they’re up for that very reason: for Emmy voter memory reasons.”
Mr. Cameron was an executive producer of the critical hit “Friday Night Lights” and reflected on what it was like in the old days — that is, about six years ago.
“They never used to bother to advertise television like that,” he said. “Now it’s completely analogous to an Oscars campaign.”
Each day for the past couple of months, thousands of Emmy voters have received mailed packages filled with elaborately designed boxes that contain DVDs for award contenders. The packages are an considerable expense — the more ostentatious, the more likely to stand out — and are mailed to a large number of potential voters. Executives estimate that the packages cost some networks more than $1 million, and for a select few, over $2 million.
“It is overwhelming the amount of content that comes to me every single day,” said Warren Littlefield, the head of NBC’s entertainment division in the 1990s, and an executive producer for several Emmy contenders, including “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
“I have a kitchen table that no one can sit at and no one can have a meal at it,” Mr. Littlefield said. “It’s that filled with DVDs.”
Industry executives concede that the majority of those discs will most likely not be watched, and that there is something anachronistic about sending DVDs in the streaming era. But if one network sends out big packages, others feel compelled to join in.
Emmy campaigning has escalated this year in part because of the swelling number of TV shows, and of the voters that executives are trying to reach. The Television Academy voting pool has more than 22,000 people, dwarfing the roughly 7,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that vote for the Oscars.
“There are more voting members of the TV academy than voted for mayor of Los Angeles,” joked Tony Angellotti, a longtime Oscars awards strategist who is working with the cable network Starz this year.
There are beneficiaries of all this campaigning, of course.
Emmy-related advertising is up about 20 percent at The Hollywood Reporter this year, said Lynne Segall, the trade publication’s executive vice president and publisher. She also noted that television’s awards season was inherently frenetic because it lasts only from April to June, which is shorter than the period for movie awards.
“You have a very short window to really make a mark,” she said.
But there was no greater symbol of Emmy campaign excess than Netflix’s event space, a source of some bitterness among the streaming service’s competitors.
For years, the Television Academy has facilitated “For Your Consideration” events between April and June. A typical event includes a panel discussion with actors and writers discussing the past season of a contending TV show. That’s usually followed by a party with an open bar and dinner. (Several executives noted that they were certain many Academy members were showing up for little more than a free meal).
The issue has long been one of scarcity: the academy organizes a calendar that allows one network a day to stage an event in Los Angeles, and occasionally another event in New York on the same night. Over that two-month stretch, a studio is unlikely to get more than three or four slots in which to showcase its candidates.
Netflix had a few slots on the sanctioned calendar but elected to rent out a 24,000 square foot multilevel space in Beverly Hills to stage competing events, cheekily calling them FYSee. Rivals grumbled that the events, which ended once voting started last week, violated a tacit agreement among networks to mostly stick with the official calendar. For instance, when FX convened its sanctioned event for “The Americans” in Hollywood on June 1, Netflix staged an unofficial event across town for “Master of None.”
“We consider Netflix a home for the industry’s most compelling storytellers and are responsible for finding equally innovative ways to present their stories,” said Cindy Holland, Netflix’s vice president of original content.
In addition to a stage and seating area for panels, the Netflix space featured lavish exhibits dedicated to its shows.
The “Stranger Things” area was accessible through a wall of mist, where the show’s logo was projected. A room for “The Crown” had formal dinnerware (crystal goblets, china) hanging from the ceiling. Even the canceled series “The Get Down,” which was set in the 1970s, had a display involving 50 disco balls and a dozen boomboxes.
Netflix was missing just one thing: the definitive list of Emmy voters, controlled solely by the Television Academy. The company sent out invites by stringing together various lists from several guilds, hoping that there would be enough overlap.
Ms. Nelson, the actress roaming the space, said that while she was a member of the Screen Actors Guild she was not, in fact, an Emmys voter.
The question in the industry is whether the Netflix event space — and Amazon’s smaller events — would spur copycats.
“I kind of doubt that there’s an Emmy voter who is going to vote for a show because you bought them a cheeseburger,” said Mr. Landgraf, the FX executive. “I have more faith in the electorate than that. I think they’ll vote for the shows that they think are the best.”
This year, at least, the industry is not leaving that to chance.
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