Emmys: WGA & DGA Have Not Agreed To TV Academy’s Plan To Remove Writing & Directing Categories From Main Telecast On ABC

EXCLUSIVE: This may get messy. The TV Academy this morning announced the rundown for the virtual 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards, which includes five nights of Creative Arts Emmy Awards, followed by the 72nd Emmy Awards telecast on Sept. 20.

There is a major shakeup in the lineup for the Sept. 20 show which aires on ABC. It will feature 23 categories, along with the Governors Award presentation, usually held during the Creative Emmys.

The four categories relocated from the Emmy Awards ceremony to the Creative Arts include one writing and one directing category, for variety writing/directing. That reduces the number of writing and directing awards handed out on the main telecast to three each, bellow the four the WGA and the DGA are contractually guaranteed by the TV Academy.

It appears that the changes have been made without input from the guilds.

“The DGA has not signed off on this,” a spokesperson for the DGA told Deadline. Added a spokesperson for the WGA, “The WGA has not agreed to anything with the Academy.” Deadline also has reached out to the TV Academy for comment.

Reducing the number of awards, typically 27 (+/-1)  on the primary telecast has been a bone of contention for years. The broadcast networks, who pay a hefty license fee to carry the Emmys in a “wheel deal” where they alternate each year, have been pushing to trim non-acting categories amid declining ratings. The Grammys, which were rejuvenated when a large portion of the awards were moved out of the televised show, replaced by buzzy music performances, are frequently used as an example. With fewer categories and a lifetime achievement award presentation, which often creates “a moment,” the slimmed-down Primetime Emmys resemble the Golden Globes.

The removal of four awards from the main telecast, including Variety Sketch Series and Television Movie, follows the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards hitting all-time low ratings on Fox. The writing and directing categories affected, writing for a variety series/variety special and directing for a variety series/variety special, are part of a wheel, with one pair of a writing/directing trophies given out on the primary telecast and one on the Creative Arts as they alternate each year.

This is not the first attempt to shift writing and directing awards to the Creative Arts Emmys.

“This has been attempted a number of times,” said veteran producer/director Don Mischer, who has produced 15 Primetime Emmy Awards. “The resistance has been pretty heavy.”

Indeed, none of the previous tries have been successful.

As part of the WGA and DGA’s contracts with the TV Academy, they are granting rights for clips to be used on the show without residual payments to their members. That sum is significant. But even beyond that, in instances when networks have offered to cover those residuals in order to replace awards categories with entertainment content, the resistance from the guilds to any attempt to cut writing and directing awards from the main show has been so strong, the networks and the TV Academy have eventually backed off.

“It’s tough producing the telecasts because you are serving two masters — you are trying to help the network get high ratings and trying hard to have people on the show who are recognizable to viewers across the country,” Mischer said. “But as a director, I can say unequivocally that directors are incredibly important to television as an audio-video medium, and the attempt to cut them out is incredibly troublesome.”

Jimmy Kimmel is hosting and executive producing the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards, which he is executive producing with Guy Carrington, Reginald Hudlin, David Jammy and Ian Stewart. Bob Bain Productions is producing.



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