Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: The Primetime Emmy Awards will continue to air on the four major broadcast networks with a new deal between the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. I hear that the new pact, expected to close in about 2 weeks, mirrors TV Academy’s most recent agreement with the 4 broadcast networks. Like the old one, it is also for 8 years and keeps in place the “wheel” system, with the four networks alternating as hosts of the ceremony. (In the rotation, it would be Fox’s turn to carry the Emmys this year.) I hear that the license fee the TV Academy is getting is slightly higher than the $7.5 million a year it most recently received under the previous 8-year deal, which expired after the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards last August.

That is considered reasonable for both sides. Going into the renegotiations, the TV Academy didn’t have big leverage, like the $10 million-a-year offer from HBO 8 years ago that drove the license fee with the broadcast nets up from their initial offer of $3.3 million to $4.5 for the first four years and $7.5 million for the second four years.

Additionally, ratings for the Emmys have been stagnant for the last few years unlike other awards telecasts, like the Oscars and the Grammys, which have been on an upswing. Last year, the Emmys drew 13.5 million viewers and a 4.1 rating in adults 18-49 on NBC. That matched the award show’s numbers from 2009. For comparison, last year’s Oscar ceremony on ABC drew 41.3 million viewers, its largest audience since 2005. And the Grammys on CBS earlier this month averaged 26.7 million viewers, the show’s largest audience in 11 years. (The Emmys’ ratings are hurt from airing against NFL football when they air on ABC, CBS or Fox or being pushed to August when they are carried by NBC.)

Also, the broadcast networks have long complained that a third of the Primetime Emmy ceremony, the portion featuring longform categories, serves as an advertisement for cable as the broadcast nets have long abandoned the longform field. (In a move that is certain to please the broadcasters, the TV Academy yesterday announced it will merge the best miniseries and best TV movie categories beginning this year.)

As for sticking to the “wheel” system instead of going with one network, because of the nature of the awards – celebrating the best in primetime entertainment – this seems to be the only suitable model. While a single network airing the Emmys would be more beneficial to the TV Academy financially and it would also better nurture the awards franchise, it is bound to create friction among the broadcast networks. The TV Academy knows that too well from its ill-fated attempts  in the 1990s to go exclusively with Fox and ABC that led to boycotts from the other nets.

TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.