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Oscars Move Closer To Voting Change — Emmys Resist; Can Hackers Be Kept Out?

Pete Hammond

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. Read More »

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Is This Any Way To Judge Emmy Awards?

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s 2010 Emmy coverage:

emmyThe Primetime Emmy screeners and ballots for at-home judging are in the mail. It happens that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is one of the last organizations in the land to depend wholeheartedly on the U.S. Postal Service in the Internet Age. The first of two mailings have been going out this week from the Academy offices in North Hollywood to those judging the creative arts (or technical) categories for this year’s Emmys. Next week, those assessing the categories being announced during the August 29th telecast on NBC receive their packages that include DVD nominee discs and a Scan-Tron voting sheet for marking choices. Yes, the TV Academy is still utilizing the same technology that we all used in high school and college to take multiple choice tests.

So here’s a question that needs to be asked: Is the Emmy judging process itself as antiquated as the Academy distribution and technological procedures?

Both to its credit and detriment, the TV Academy has kept the Emmys in a near-constant state of retooling to supposedly remain relevant. But, clearly, that doesn’t always work. Much of the Academy’s futzing is done in the interest of keeping the telecast fresh and the competition open. But for a lot of the categories, that hasn’t much mattered — as we’ve seen with the seven consecutive wins of both The Amazing Race and The Daily Show and the three in a … Read More »

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EMMYS: Do Cable Dramas’ Scheduling Patterns Give Them An Emmy Advantage?

Nellie Andreeva

emmyIt’s hard to look around and not come across an ad for the upcoming fourth season of AMC’s drama Mad Men. There are billboards, promos, reviews, stories, and interviews with the cast and creator Matthew Weiner seemingly everywhere this week, which leads to the Sunday season premiere. This week also happens to be when TV Academy voters receive their ballots for the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. And on Monday, the day after the Mad Men season premiere, they will start receiving the ballots for the categories featured in the main telecast, including best series. Of course, Mad Men will be judged for Season 3, but is all this attention to the new season helping the series’ Emmy chances? Mad Men won multiple awards including the top drama series statuette at the Emmys in the past 2 years. Both times, a new season of the show launched just before the final voting phase, with fresh episodes airing throughout. In the year before Mad Men’s first Emmy appearance, 2007, The Sopranos won best drama series. The series was also fresh in voters’ minds, having concluded its run with the much-talked about finale in June.

In comedy, it’s mostly about the characters, the situations and laughs, but in drama, it’s about the emotional connection with the show. That’s why I think having a series fresh in your mind while voting is important. I think it’s not a coincidence that in the month after the end of … Read More »

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