Jimmy Kimmel, host of the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, is stepping in for Nick Offerman at tomorrow morning’s nominations announcement with Kerry Washington and TV Academy Chairman Bruce Rosenblum. Offerman was unable to make it because of weather-related travel delays on the East Coast.
Oscar’s move to online voting is off and running. The Academy confirms that a very impressive 83% of the membership had returned cards requesting their email address by the deadline date of June 30, but an Academy spokesperson assured me “it’s an ongoing process,” so if you were one of the stragglers, get that email to the membership department.
This is a first step in a very methodical and careful move to online voting for the Academy just as most other guilds and voting orgs have already done. And it is also a first step toward potentially moving the Oscar telecast up earlier in the season to the end of January or beginning of February. An expedited voting process would certainly help make that difficult prospect easier to pull off.
The Academy sent out the request to members in May, and considering the advanced age of some AMPAS voters, the response is encouraging. Common wisdom is that older voters might be the most resistant to change, but officials are happy with the way potential online voting is being embraced so far.
As I wrote recently, there was also some concern about A-listers not providing their direct emails, which is a problem because the Academy does not want to put an electronic ballot in the hands of Brad Pitt’s or Barbra Streisand’s assistants (even though it’s no secret that there are some assistants who have been known to help their boss by filling out the snail-mail ballots anyway). Academy president Tom Sherak tells me confidently that even that part of the process is now “going fairly well” too.
Sherak says the Academy hopes to have a firm that can conduct online voting in place by this month and it is actively involved now in the selection procedure for that. “We’re getting closer” is how Sherak puts it, but he emphasized to me that online voting for Oscars will not be ready for next year’s 84th Academy Awards. He says they are taking a very methodical approach and after securing a firm will begin testing by putting some kind of vote online while still using paper ballots (which will be the only ones that count in the test case) to see how the online method is initially received. Then they will probably test it again leading to its first official use, perhaps in the selection of governors for the board next May. ”It will not be implemented until we’re sure it works, but all of this preparation is necessary so we can move it methodically into a proper voting cycle for the Oscars,” he says. Sherak adds they are aware that even though they want to move this process online, some members don’t have emails. The Academy will be providing an alternative for those concerned voters (likely the old standby paper ballot) just as the guilds do now.
“We will give all our members an opportunity to be part of something they have always been a part of,” Sherak says, meaning no one among the approximate 6,000 voting members are about to be disenfranchised by new technology creeping into the notoriously slow-to-change Academy.
Of course, many of those members already have experience voting online in their various guild contests since most Academy voters are also likely guild voters. The bigger problem here I think for the Academy is that unlike those contests, Oscar, being the highest-profile awards show of them all, may provide an irresisible target for hackers — and the Academy knows it. A key reason they are being careful about diving into online voting is the danger of having its air-tight voting system compromised. After all, WikiLeaks proves no one, even the most closed doors of the U.S. government, are immune to a cyber violation of its top secrets.
“Welcome to the pre-Emmy nominations campaign lunch,” one cable network exec deadpanned as I walked into the first (and organizers hope annual) Critics’ Choice Television Awards on Monday afternoon at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The event, created by the Broadcast Critics Association to complement the now 17-year-old Critics Choice Movie Awards and plant its flag officially in Emmy season, will be aired Wednesday on ReelzChannel, a rather obscure network that bills itself as “TV about Movies” but in this case will be “TV about TV.” Timed to occur during the Emmy nomination voting period (ballots aren’t due until this Friday), these awards, which drew many nominees, showrunners and execs and a big media turnout for red-carpet interviews, are another cog in the promotional wheel that has turned Emmy season into an advertising bonanza for many media outlets (yes, ads run on Deadline, too), and one that seems to be rivaling Oscar season for its pure visceral assault on potential voters. Actually, as a longtime member of the TV Academy, I would say the attention — not to mention cold hard cash — being lavished on trying to land nominations is more elaborate and intense than it has ever been. And maybe just a bit of overkill.
There are electronic billboards around L.A. soliciting votes (Steve Carell in The Office, anyone?) not to mention bus-shelter posters, Q&As everywhere (I have moderated my share), a months-long advertising blitz in trade papers and the Los Angeles Times (which recently had a full-on front-page ad wrap with their newspaper logo so that when readers opened their paper, they didn’t see the usual headlines but rather an Emmy bid for the stars of Men Of A Certain Age) and so much more.
Then there are all the lavish DVD boxes sent to the over-15,000-strong membership. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put a stop to this kind of blatant pandering to voters by enacting specific guidelines strictly outlawing promotional opportunities sent with screeners of award hopefuls. The TV Academy has not done this (although they should), which is why some days at Emmy time the mail brings loads of fun stuff for voters to unwrap. HBO, which usuually dominates Emmy noms, sent its traditional boxes packed with series, specials, movies and docs, but other outlets feeling the need to be noticed came up with attention-getting devices like the pop-up card from How I Met Your Mother; the monopoly-style board game for The Big Bang Theory; the children’s book-style layout for Fox’s Raising Hope; a lenticular showing two sides of RuPaul for his reality show on Logo; numerous elaborate glossy DVD-laden brochures and/or foldout packages for the likes of Glee, Modern Family, Hot In Cleveland, Community, The Good Wife, Friday Night Lights (including the final 13 episodes of the series); and the shows of Starz, FX, Showtime, TNT, WE, NBC Universal, History Channel, Discovery and others. AMC had one of the most sophisticated mailings and included the entire seasons of Mad Men and The Walking Dead as well as episodes from their other series.
The most garish bid for attention was an ill-conceived item from Warner Bros Television, which sent a big red box (inside another big box) that was adorned with its series’ names and contained seven very slick 4-foot long (by a little less than 2 feet wide) vertical banners with individual series DVDs awkwardly stuffed into the bottom part of each one (Two and a Half Men was MIA in this package, though).
After sifting through all this stuff, at least Fox gave voters a laugh with their annual solicitation for the animated perennial loser Family Guy, an unfolding DVD package that featured such sayings as “It’s been this way for eight years, and it’s starting to hurt morale,” then, “We paid for a Golden Globe and didn’t get it, so we’re owed an award,” then, “Here’s a free DVD to give to your nephew,” and finally, “This screener has one frame of porn. Find the porn.”