Emmy Rule Changes: Dramas and Comedies Will No Longer Be Determined By Hour or Half-Hour Length

The Television Academy today announced rules changes for the 74th Emmy Awards competition, including eliminating the program time length for comedy and drama series.

The rule change: Categorization based on program length for a comedy or drama series has been eliminated. Episode length will no longer dictate submission categories. Instead, producers will now determine category submission with the stipulation that the Television Academy’s Industry Panel reserves the right to review the producer’s preference. Comedy and drama series are defined as programs with multiple episodes (minimum of six) in which the content is primarily comedic for comedy series entries or primarily dramatic for dramatic series entries. In addition, the ongoing theme, storyline and main characters are presented under the same title and have continuity of production supervision. The exception is programming under 20 minutes, which must be submitted in short-form categories.

“This year our Awards Committee has worked with industry colleagues to further define program eligibility for the Emmy competition,” said TV Academy chairman/CEO Frank Scherma. “We’ve made great strides in differentiating what is eligible for our respective competitions, in concert with ongoing changes in content development and distribution.”

Since 2015, the Academy had ruled that all hour-long series would be submitted as drama, and half-hour shows would be directed to comedy. Series producers and networks were allowed to petition the org to switch categories in case their hour-long was more comedic or their half-hour was more dramatic. The question of category eligibility has loomed over the Academy for years, particularly as hour-long shows such as “Ally McBeal” and “Desperate Housewives” began entering (and in some cases, winning) the comedy race.

The compromise appeared to work for a period of time, but as the streaming age takes hold — where episodic length doesn’t matter anymore, and as a matter of fact, can vary episode-to-episode with some series, it apparently made sense to return to a system where a comedy and drama “smell test” ultimately determines where a show will compete.

Meanwhile, as previously announced, the Academy has redefined the definition of theatrical motion pictures, ruling that any film placed on the viewing platform for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be deemed a theatrical motion picture and thus ineligible for the Emmy competition.

The Academy also announced changes in the stunts and voice-over categories and expanded entry eligibility for various professionals working on reality programming, animation and special visual effects. Here are the other changes:

The Interactive Program category and the juried award for Innovation in Interactive Programming have been eliminated for the 2021 – 2022 competition. Entries that would normally submit in Outstanding Interactive Program can submit to a program category where they are eligible for the 2021 – 2022 competition.

Stunt Coordination: Outstanding Stunt Coordination has been split back into two categories. One for Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or Variety Program and the other for Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited or Anthology Series or Movie.

Character Voice-Over: Performers who voice multiple characters within an episode or series, can submit all characters, provided that each character is submitted as a separate entry. This means performers will no longer submit one episode per series for all characters that the performer voiced in that episode.

Reality Programming: Supervising Story Producer has been added as an Emmy-eligible title in the Structured, Unstructured and Competition program categories.

Special Visual Effects: VFX Editor has been added as an Emmy-eligible title in the Special Visual Effects categories.

Makeup and Hairstyling for a Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Program: The Contemporary designation has been eliminated and these awards have been changed from Area Awards to Juried Awards. (In a juried award, all entrants are screened by a jury of appropriate peer group members and one, more than one or no entry is awarded an Emmy. There are no nominations. The winner(s), if any, are announced prior to the awards presentation.)

Governors Award: The description for the Governors Award has been revised as follows: “The Board of Governors may, when warranted, recognize an individual, company, or organization that has made a profound, transformational, and long-lasting contribution to the arts and/or science of television by presenting them with the Governors Award.”

• Lighting, Camera and Technical Arts: Change the following category awards to Area Awards: TD, Camerawork & Video Control for a Special; Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Series; Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special. Nominations will be determined by a two-step process for the following awards: TD, Camerawork & Video Control for a Series; TD, Camerawork & Video Control for a Special; Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Series; Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special.

Details of awards changes for the 74th Emmy Awards can be found at Emmys.com/rules/changes.

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