How Do You Win an Emmy Award?

Emmy Awards statue with a light burst on a blue background.
Emmy Award statuette

The Emmys are the biggest awards in the television industry, where acting, directing, writing, and other creative and technical achievements are recognized. Many Central Casting productions have won over the years and several are recognized this year, including nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series for The Good Place, Russian Doll, and Veep and Outstanding Drama Series for Pose and This is Us. In honor of 2019’s ceremony on September 22, we take a look at how Emmy Awards are handed out.

The first Emmy Awards

In 1946, Syd Cassyd, a grip at Paramount Pictures and writer for Box Office magazine, founded the Television Academy in an effort to advance awareness of the television industry. At that time, it’s estimated there were only around 50,000 homes with a TV in the United States. While Cassyd wanted the organization to focus more on culture, education, and research, he was convinced by members to hold an awards show. The hope was that an annual ceremony would help bring television into the forefront of popular culture and create public relations opportunities.

Once an awards show was officially in the works, the Television Academy had to create a name and statuette. They looked at 47 models before deciding on a design from TV engineer Louis McManus. His award featured a winged woman holding an atom, which represented the art and science side of television. While names like “Ike” were considered, the statuette became known as Emmy, named after the image-orthicon tube found in television cameras.

The first Emmy Awards, devoted to Los Angeles based programming, were held on January 25, 1949 at the Hollywood Athletic Club. Only six awards were given out that year, including Outstanding Personality to Shirley Dinsdale and Most Popular Program to Pantomime Quiz Time.

As the industry began to grow, the Emmy Awards were split into multiple categories. The highest rated is the Primetime Emmy Awards, which are made up of the main ceremony and the Creative Arts ceremony, normally held the weekend before the main event to honor behind the scenes personnel like cinematographers, production designers, editors, and costume designers.

There are also Daytime Emmy Award ceremonies presented by the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the International Emmy Awards presented by the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and various other ceremonies celebrating achievement in sports, engineering, and regional TV markets.

Emmy nomination process

The Television Academy has over 24,000 members across peer groups consisting of performers, directors, writers, executives, editors, and other TV professionals. To be nominated for an Emmy, a performer, program, or achievement must be submitted for consideration. This can be done by anyone within the Academy; you are even encouraged to nominate yourself. Submissions for 2019 saw a record breaking 9,100 entries across 124 categories.

Once the submissions are in, each peer group votes in their category and in all the program categories. Nominations are tallied by the accounting firm Ernst & Young and are usually announced in mid-July.

Individual achievement nominees then pick their strongest episode of the season to submit for consideration while program producers pick a collection of the season’s best outings. To determine the winners, all categories are voted on by the Television Academy’s eligible members.

Saturday Night Live holds the record for most program nominations and wins, with 270 and 72, respectively. In the performer categories, Cloris Leachman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are tied for the most wins at 8. This year, Game of Thrones broke the record for most single year nominations with 32.

Check out all the 2019 nominees and find out who will take home trophies when the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards air on September 22 on FOX.

Want more Hollywood history? Learn more about how The Oscars came to be and when summer blockbusters took over the box office.

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By Meghan Dubitsky

Article Category:

Hollywood History