Will last night's Emmy broadcast on NBC end up being the last time the show airs on a broadcast network? A few months ago, more than a few TV insiders were betting yes. But the momentum appears to have shifted, and on the heels of the well-received Jimmy Fallon-hosted even on Sunday, the smart money now has Emmys staying put on "the wheel," which rotates the show between ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.
Many network types were saying they were done with the Emmys, due to to so-so ratings and the feeling that broadcast shows were continually being snubbed in favor of cable fare like Mad Men, Nurse Jackie, The Daily Show and Breaking Bad. So what changed?
It helped that this year's nominations and awards offered plenty of love to broadcast newcomers like Glee, Modern Family and The Good Wife. Ratings were also up a tad, impressive given the late August airdate, and reviews were good.
"I think the wheel is going to come back," one network president told Vulture during the show. "We just have to work some things out."
Money, for once, probably won't be the biggest issue. It's doubtful the TV Academy–which declined to comment on discussions about a new deal–would demand a huge increase from the roughly $7-8 million it gets annually, and the networks would probably be OK continuing to shell out that sum for at least four more years. Instead, expect the nets to press hard to limit the amount of time the ceremony spends honoring movies and miniseries–a genre in which broadcasters no longer compete at all, and which has even shrunk on cable (HBO, Lifetime and Hallmark are among the few still cranking out many made-for-TV movies these days.) Many critics noted how Sunday's show ground to a halt once it focused on HBO's Temple Grandin and The Pacific.
"It's like an informercial for HBO. We've got to change it," one network wag said. HBO has previously fought off attempts to downsize the longform categories, and will keep touting the star power it brings to the show via winners such as Tom Hanks and Al Pacino.
A calender shift offers another possible twist. One senior network source told Vulture Sunday that some TV types want the show to air in late May or early June, when the viewing public is riding high on the finales of networks shows like Modern Family or 30 Rock. This change would require a host of changes to eligibility requirements, including figuring out a way to honor series finale episodes with a ceremony that would air just a few weeks after finales. Plus, most network shows are on hiatus in May and June, perhaps making it tough to get talent to reschedule vacations and film shoots to do the awards circuit.
Finally, there have also been report that a competing, nascent TV honors ceremony–being put together by the Paley Center for Media–is also eying a late spring airdate, setting up a potential clash of awards shows. And despite the stellar reviews for last night's Emmys, the only thing the world needs less than another awards show is two in the same month.