Emmy Awards Divide Houses

Mar 26, 2007  •  Post A Comment

A new front has opened up in the familiar battle between the two organizations that dispense the Emmy Awards.

The Los Angeles-based Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is not going to sit by and watch any of its members be forced to pay $350 for a Daytime Emmy statuette that has always gone for free to each member of the team winning Daytime Emmy honors.

The New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences last year instituted a policy for all the events it administers, including the Daytime Emmys, of giving one free Emmy per team and requiring the other team members to pay for a statuette they could take home.

On Friday, ATAS sent a letter to its members nominated for daytime Emmys saying the Los Angeles organization “wants you to know that, as a matter of principle, we do not agree with this decision and do not believe that any Emmy winner should have to pay for their award. Therefore, we are enacting our own policy to reimburse our members who are Daytime Emmy Award winners.”

The letter mailed Friday was a vivid display of some of the economic and philosophical differences that caused an acrimonious split in the Emmy organization in 1977, dividing it into the into haves (ATAS, which took custody of the choice Primetime Emmy Awards) and have-nots (NATAS, which got the less visible daytime, news and documentary, sports and regional Emmys) when it came to status, finances and the power to change things.

“They have deeper pockets than we do, and we’re pleased they’re able to do that,” NATAS President and CEO Peter Price said about the ATAS plan to pay for its members’ Emmys.

The letter also noted that ATAS was excluded from its usual role of producing and paying for the non-televised craft awards ceremony in Los Angeles and therefore “We are not involved with this year’s ticket policy or ticket pricing.”

“We also want you to know that we are planning to host a Daytime Emmy nominee reception for all West Coast nominees later this spring. Invitations will be sent as we get closer to the Awards,” it said.

Mr. Price said ATAS has less involvement in producing the daytime event and related processes this year not because of any desire to squeeze the Hollywood contingent out of the mix. Instead, he said, the maiden West Coast daytime event in 2006 had proved to NATAS that it was capable of assuming full operational control rather than ceding ancillary West Coast events to ATAS, which would be reimbursed.

The NATAS ticket policy of one free ticket rather than two for attendees will apply this year.

ATAS gets a 10 percent cut of revenues from the nationally televised Daytime Emmys. NATAS gets a bigger chunk of change, 15 percent, from the Primetime Emmys.

The letter came on the heels of the latest skirmish between the two factions over control of the Emmy brand and when, where, how, by whom and by what rules to award Emmys for broadband content.

Those issues were laid out in petitions filed by ATAS seeking binding arbitration and a temporary injunction to prevent NATAS from independently creating Emmys for digital content and using MySpace to solicit and display broadband entries.

The plea for injunctive relief from the U.S. District Court, Central District, Western Division, said the action was rooted in NATAS’s unauthorized commercial exploitation of the trademarked name Emmy and the trademarked and copyrighted Emmy statuette, thus “diluting [their] special significance and legitimacy.”

Broadband Dispute

The complaint also said that NATAS’s partnership with MySpace to award Emmys in new categories for user-generated broadband content is in direct conflict with a 30-year-old agreement stipulating that neither academy can create new Emmy competitions without written agreement from the other.

An ATAS spokeswoman said, “The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has attempted to resolve the complex isues associated with the introduction of new media Emmy Awards with the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for some time. Unfortunately, our talks have not resolved the differences we have in this vitally important area. It is our hope that this matter will be resolved amicably.”

Over the years there have been occasional attempts to discuss reuniting the two factions as one academy, but those have been as futile as hopes that the Rosie O’Donnell-Donald Trump feud would finally end.

The two sides have very different self-images and world views, not to mention needs.

NATAS’s position is that ATAS is running away with new awards and that it is essential to stop the train until both academies agree on where it is going.

Mr. Price has to create new ways to raise money and expand the NATAS membership base, which includes local chapters, if he is going to end NATAS’s image as a poor, drab relation to ATAS. But he has been stymied by the more moneyed Hollywood relative on his two most aggressive proposals: to create Emmy Awards for Spanish-language television and the bustling brave new world of digital content. The former effort was settled in 2004 with an agreement that forced Mr. Price to turn what had been an Emmy competition into a tribute to important people in Spanish-language TV.

He also spun off business reporting categories from the news and documentary competition, creating a new lunchtime Emmys ceremony four years ago.

“My mission has been to better reward growing parts of the business that are not in recognized events,” Mr. Price said last week.