Sometimes, a primetime Emmy nomination means more to a
cable network than the possibility of winning the prestigious award.
The real reward is more than one golden moment in the
national TV spotlight: It's the ripple from the nominations -- and, in a
bright-blue-sky world, from the wins -- which can give a lasting boost to marketing,
promotion and programming; lasting, at least, until next year's envelopes are opened.
Trade ads aimed at the creative community, advertisers and
operators are just the first salvo for some. The phrases "Emmy-nominated" and
"Emmy-winning" quickly work their way into press releases and promotional
materials. And some networks run house ads using the Emmys to reinforce their image and,
in some cases, as a pat on the back for nominees or winners.
Showtime went one step further by buying time on NBC during
the awards show this past Sunday to get the message across to "the end-user that
we're interested in -- the consumer who clearly has a voracious appetite for
entertainment," said Karen Ticktin, Showtime's vice president of brand
management and advertising.
Ticktin expects the ad to reach 10 million people in the
premium network's target audience of 18- to 49-year-olds. The 30-second spot,
"Gyro Boy," is the latest installment in the network's "No
Limits" branding campaign.
"On our own air, we're reinforcing their purchase
decision -- not only do we have great programming, but something that has the gold seal of
approval," Ticktin added.
This year, for the first time, Home Box Office set aside
two evenings (Sept. 17 and 18) to recognize the Emmys with primetime replays of nominated
or winning programs. The network will air its From the Earth to the Moon
miniseries, which earned 17 Emmy nominations. (This story went to press before the Emmys
were handed out Sept. 13.)
EMMYS AND BRANDING
Showtime and all of the other cable networks are following
the path successfully laid by HBO, which used the Emmys to build its brand with consumers
and its reputation with the creative community.
"I think that we were aware of this value before
anybody else," said Chris Albrecht, president of original programming at HBO and HBO
Independent Productions. Industry colleagues agreed.
"HBO specifically has been in the Emmy business for
some time in a major way," said Rod Perth, the former president of USA Network, who
shepherded the acclaimed Moby Dick miniseries, which garnered five Emmy
nominations. "HBO invests heavily in projects that they know will allow them to
appeal in a certain way to the academy, and they don't have to answer to the ratings
Perth added, "Obviously, there's an incremental
stature that comes with Emmys, especially for projects as notable as, in USA's case, Moby
Unlike some executives, who said Emmys are simply a
byproduct of quality programming, Perth readily admitted that Moby Dick was planned
to be a contender.
"We wouldn't have done it otherwise," he
said. "With USA, something as notable as Moby Dick gives them a huge
opportunity to put them on the map, certainly with advertisers and, I suspect, to a lesser
extent, with viewers."
To HBO Pictures president John Matoian, whose division has
won the last six Emmys in the "original movie made for television" category,
Emmys mean two things.
"For us, an Emmy is the burnishing, the polishing of
the brand. [It says] you're getting something special, and you're getting it
here and not getting it anywhere else," he said. "Secondly, it says that quality
work can be done and recognized, and that it can be done and recognized at HBO.
That's very important here in drawing people."
Jerry Offsay, president of Showtime, agreed, saying,
"You want [people] to feel that they'd be missing something if they don't
have your service."
At its most basic level, though, for cable, being nominated
for Emmys -- and winning them -- means acceptance.
Showtime had 17 nominations this year, compared with
HBO's 72, but those 17 nearly doubled last year's nine, and they were far ahead
of the two nominations that it earned in 1995. "What it gets you is receptivity from
the top echelons of talent. [In the past,] there were some people who would say, 'If
I'm going to do television, I'm only going to do HBO.' We don't get
that anymore," Offsay said.
"We're now one of the big networks because we get
nominated," said Michael Cascio, senior vice president of programming at A&E
Network. "If you get an Emmy, you can market it and say that you're an
Emmy-winning program, and it helps to validate your program to the public. If you
don't get one, it doesn't mean that your program isn't valid."
Then, there's the peer-recognition factor.
"It means that the industry as a whole -- the
television industry and Hollywood -- is officially acknowledging that the work that you do
is of a certain caliber," said Scot Safon, Turner Network Television's vice
president of marketing. "There are a couple of ways that you look to get that sort of
validation in the public eye -- one of those is ratings, viewership, and one is critical
acclaim -- but ultimately, at the end of the season, it's the Emmy."
WHAT IT MEANS
Emmys don't help Linda Stuchell, vice president of
public affairs and programming for MSO Harron Communications Corp., to choose networks for
"By the time a network gets to the point where
it's garnering Emmys, it's already established," she explained. "It
all goes back to what the customer is clamoring to have. Even if you've got the
biggest success story in the world, if we're not under huge pressure to add that
service, it doesn't really matter how many Emmys you have."
But the Emmy is a valuable tool when it comes to dealing
with the consumer, she said, because it can help cable operators to promote the fact that
the programming that their customers are paying for actually carries some value.
"Any time that a network can garner that kind of
acclaim, it sort of sets us apart from the broadcasters. Being able to take so many Emmys
[nominations and wins] just added to the value story that we're trying to tell,"
For Stuchell's purposes, a nomination is just as good
as a win because "I think that the nominations set you apart for quality and merit.
Yes, if you win, that's nice, but you have been singled out in a huge field of
Offsay understood Stuchell's position, saying that
even after the networks promote the show and the critics weigh in, the Emmy is "the
most visible tangible sign that what we're making is very good."
One MSO executive who does include the Emmys in the
equation when she looks at adding networks is Lynne Buening, vice president of programming
for Falcon Cable TV Corp.
"When we're looking to acquire new networks, we
look at the total picture of what they bring to the party; who are they owned by; what
kind of depth; and the ability to come up with Emmy-award-winning programs," Buening
But Emmys are just one part of the equation, she added,
calling them "another positive feature" to show how far original cable
programming has progressed.
Even some network executives believe that the Emmys have a
limited role in reaching audiences. Cascio said they do a good job reinforcing
audiences' preferences, but as for what decides whether a network is "legitimate
-- you're a legitimate network if they want to see it."
Albrecht said, "There are lots of different
constituencies. I think that there is a large slice of the audience that it does matter
to," but he added that winning awards can't always be the goal.
"There are also a lot of Emmy-award-winning shows that
didn't have a big audience and that were failures," he noted.
The Emmys help Discovery Channel to promote itself to
viewers and cable operators, said Jonathon Rodgers, president of Discovery Networks U.S.,
who also saw another plus the awards: a chance to thank the talent for giving the network
a better name.
"When people get nominated, we send them out to the
awards ceremony and we wine and dine them for a weekend as a way to pay them back for
helping to bring quality programming to our channels," Rodgers said.
Safon uses the Emmys as marketing tool to boast about his
network to viewers. Soon after the nominations, TNT began to run 15-second spots touting
the network's 18 nominations. The "Best Movie Studio on Television" spot
shows snippets from each of the nominated films, while the voice-over proclaims, "For
the fourth year, TNT is honored with more Emmy nominations than any other basic-cable
TNT doesn't plan to use the Emmys overtly in promoting
upcoming movies. But, Safon said, the network's press materials include references to
the Emmys and to other awards, such as the Screen Actors Guild awards and the Golden
The network's turnkey efforts will continue to focus
on series programming, like Babylon 5, or on off-network episodes of ER.
Added Safon, "The local ad-sales forces out there
representing MSOs and co-ops -- they're the ones who can really parlay our
Emmy-award-winning work, and we really encourage them."