How Your Favorite Shows Get Emmy Nominations

JULY 27, 2020
Emmy statue on a blue background with Emmys logo.
Television Academy

Every TV season there are many performers, writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, and other crew members who put award-worthy work into our favorite shows. At Central Casting, our Background Actors, Stand-Ins, and doubles get to be a part of and work alongside the best in the business. Ahead of the 72nd Primetime Emmy nominations on July 28, we take a look at how the nomination process works.

How Emmy nominations are given out

The Emmy Awards are divided into multiple ceremonies, including the Primetime Emmys, Daytime Emmys, Sports Emmys, News and Documentary Emmys, Engineering Emmys, and Regional Emmys. Series that air on broadcast networks between 6pm-2am and shows on streaming services are eligible for Primetime Emmy Awards.

The Television Academy, comprised of over 25,000 members across 30 peer groups, is responsible for voting on Primetime Emmy nominations and award winners. To be considered for a nomination, a performer, production member, or program has to be submitted to a category. Then each peer group votes in their respective category and for all the program awards. The results of this first round of voting determine the nominations. According to Variety, the amount of submissions for 2020 increased by 15% over 2019.

As the number of scripted series grows (The New York Times estimates 532 in 2019), the strategy behind show category submissions has evolved. The Television Academy has complex rules about which series and performers are eligible and determining that all starts with the program category. Since the line between what is considered a comedy or drama has blurred in recent years, in 2016 the Academy ruled that any program with an average episode length of 30 minutes is a comedy and of 60 minutes is a drama. Programs must petition the Academy if they believe their show fits into a different category than the one assigned by their runtime. Once the program category is set, all subsequent performer nominations must also compete in that category.

When it comes to the performer awards (lead, supporting, and guest), actors get to choose which category to submit themselves in. Each has certain qualifications an actor must meet, usually a minimum screen time requirement, but there's more leeway than you'd think for performers to leverage their best shot at a nomination. A lead actor may submit as a supporting role and sometimes programs, networks, and studios coordinate to place performers in specific categories in an effort to garner as many nominations as possible for their show. Some may even spend thousands of dollars on "for your consideration" campaigns to get more nomination and award votes.

So why do performers, production members, and studios go through all this trouble to get a nomination or win? There's no monetary award for Emmy winners, it actually costs money to submit, but a trophy could lead to a slew of intangible benefits. For performers, awards can increase recognition and help secure future work. For a series, a win may lead to better ratings and overall awareness of the show. According to Fortune, Emmy nominations and wins can help streamers (especially newer ones) carve out an audience and create a reputation for having prestige content, like nominations for Orange is the New Black and House of Cards did during Netflix's early run of original content. With so many programs, networks, and services vying for ratings and subscriptions, nominations and awards can help shows stand out from the pack.

Saturday Night Live holds the record for most overall nominations with 270, Cheers for most comedy nominations at 117, Game of Thrones for most drama with 160, and The Simpsons for most animated with 92. To find out what shows and performers will add nominations to their names, you can catch the Primetime Emmy Nominations live on July 28, 2020 at 11:30am ET/8:30am PT on the Emmys website.

Have you worked for Central Casting on an Emmy nominated show? Check out our Credits section to learn more about the productions we cast and the kinds of shows you have a chance to work on when production resumes.

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By Meghan Dubitsky

Article Category:

Hollywood History