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How are Emmy awards chosen?

One of the United States’ most prestigious entertainment awards has a long and complicated process for deciding winners, lasting months at a time.

Rows of Emmy Award statuettes are seen at the 2006 Creative Arts Emmys in Los Angeles August 19, 2006
Fred ProuserReuters

Monday, 18 September is the date of the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards. Hosted in Downtown Los Angeles, the ceremony will see televisions’ heavyweights battle it out to secure bragging rights for the quality of their shows.

But the process from a show airing to award lifting is longer than you might think.

So what is the actual process?

To join the Academy an individual must satisfy a list of specific requirements, as well as verify their employment status working within the industry and pay an annual membership fee. For example, if an individual wanted to join the Academy as a representative of the animation industry, a professional must prove they’ve worked in one or more qualifying positions for a minimum of two years in the last four.

As of May 2018, the Television Academy is now comprised of over 23,000 voting members, separated into “peer groups” that focus on and vote within a specific field of expertise. However, before voting can take place, nominees have to be chosen.

To become a nominee, a program, performer, or individual achievement must be submitted. Once nominations are in, the voters can then proceed to choose the nominees that they felt “exemplify excellence.”

At the Emmy Awards there are a total of 16 categories that cover various seasons, actors or actresses, as well as the script and directing. This takes place before the official nominees of each category are announced in mid-July. Ernst & Young are the accountants that hand-check ballots after votes are first tallied.

After a show is nominated, voters are obliged to watch episodes from the season, chosen by the shows’ producers. Individual nominees select their best work of that season.

Members can then participate in voting for their favorite shows. Votes are cast online and there is a verification process to ensure that voters have actually watched what they are putting forward. Ernst & Young then hand-check ballots and count the number of votes.

There is still work for the accountants to do. Once winners’ names are inside envelopes and sealed, the accountants take said envelopes in briefcases to the awards night. The individual accountants are unaware of winners until they are publicly announced, however.

Finally, whichever celebrity on stage takes the glory and announces the winner of the award at the awards night.


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