In another predictably ironic night, broadcast television took to the airwaves–this time on the CBS Network’s platform–to celebrate the best in television with the annual Emmy Awards special.
Why is it ironic?
A cursory review of the numbers shows that Netflix walked away with not only the most wins, but it capped the night with what many believe are the two most prestigious awards (The Crown winning for Best Drama Series, and The Queen’s Gambit for Best Limited Series.)
Such a staggering showing reminds all of us that the highest quality fare runs on streaming and cable, not on over-the-air, broadcast TV.
If Netflix’s Emmy domination wasn’t stinging enough for networks, other streamers and non-broadcast content, like HBO’s premium cable network, dominated in all of the other categories, whether it was Apple TV+ for Ted Lasso’s many wins, including Best Comedy Series, or HBO and HBO MAX for Kate Winslet’s high-profile performance in Mare of Easttown.
Here’s a complete list of the winners.
The only broadcast series that got any Emmy love was NBC’s warhorse, Saturday Night Live.
Remarkably, the late-night variety show continues to set records for its creator and executive producer, Lorne Michaels, as it rounds the corner to its 47th year on television.
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While it’s certainly good news for the Emmys generally, and CBS specifically, that the Emmy audience bounced back from last year’s all-time low, the question still arises: Why are the networks continuing to run The Emmys when network TV is no longer a real contender?
One can easily point to history and find that network TV has a long track-record of broadcasting specials that celebrate art forms that arguably compete against it – – whether it’s the theater world’s Tony Awards or the feature film community’s beloved Oscars show.
Still, it’s fair to say that Broadway and the world of cinema aren’t directly pulling viewership away from ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and The CW.
On the other hand, there’s no question that streaming and premium cable are certainly designed to attract viewers to their platforms, versus the tried and true efforts of broadcast TV.
As a business-model, CBS (and the other big broadcast networks – ABC, FOX
The Emmys special itself also provides CBS an opportunity to promote its broadcast talent, such as Cedric the Entertainer, who hosted last night’s special and is the star of one of CBS’s new comedies, The Neighborhood.
Regardless of the nominal pluses The Emmys provides with respect to advertising sales and marketing stunts, the suits at the networks must be debating whether it’s really worth it to shine a light on all of the tremendous content and high-quality program offerings the streamers and cable networks offer, while their own series are largely ignored by Academy voters as broadcast TV itself drops precipitously year to year, in the ratings.
As Hollywood continues to wrestle with broadcast TV’s future generally – – most believe the big broadcasters should focus more on sports, reality television and live events to remain relevant (which technically, the Emmys qualify for, in that definition of “good broadcast TV” even if the show celebrates broadcast TV’s competition) – – another big special on the horizon line faces its own identity crisis: The Academy Awards, aka The Oscars.
Soon enough, your faithful contributor will be opining about what makes a “Best Picture” anymore, and does it matter if it actually plays in a local cineplex or not?
In other words, if a feature film only plays on streaming, is it a TV movie, actually, and should it therefore be competing for an Emmy, not an Oscar?
That’s a conundrum to address for another time.
Today, at least CBS can say the Emmys are on a ratings upswing.
And wouldn’t it be nice if CBS could also say, “Even though the streamers and premium cable utterly dominated us, at least we won a Prime Time Emmy last night too!”
Turns out they kinda, sorta did.
Their sister premium channel, SHOWTIME, earned an Emmy for Colbert’s Variety Election Special, which they likely shared with Colbert’s show, which indeed airs on CBS.
Not really a pure win for the old Tiffany network – – more like an “assist.”
It’s downright sad that network TV airs The Emmys – – akin to when Mom and Dad host a party, and the kids wish they’d just vanish.
Sooner than some may predict, the kids just might get their wish.