Creative Emmys save the world

Award campaigns going online more than ever before

In the battle for Emmy glory, the networks and studios are getting more creative with their campaigns.

Whether it's fallout from the WGA strike, a push to be more eco-friendly or the recession -- or all three -- studios are cutting costs this year by going online more than ever before.

While studios had put individual episodes online before, Showtime this year became the first to put full seasons of its shows -- including "Dexter" and "Weeds" -- on the Web for TV academy members' viewing. The network previously shook up the Emmy campaign process in 2005 when it sent out the full season of "Huff" two months after it premiered; the low-rated dramedy ended up getting seven Emmy noms. Showtime executive vp corporate communications Richard Licata said he has gotten a great deal of positive response from academy members this year.

"If the distribution and marketing can be accomplished in an economical and ecological way and also preserves our copyrights -- everyone wins," he said.

Along with cutting down on piracy, another advantage to streaming online is that it's easier to keep tabs on the number of viewings, something impossible with mailed-out DVD.

On Showtime's site, Licata said, more than 48,000 episodes have been streamed by 5,000 unique viewers, or 36% of the entire academy membership, since March 7. The site will be up through the judging period ending in August.

With the exception of 20th Century Fox TV, which is sending out DVDs only, all the other major TV studios are using a combination of mailers and streaming episodes online.

By streaming, companies can avoid paying the $1,500 per-episode service fee the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences requires on "for your consideration" mailers as well as the DVD replication, postage and packaging costs. One studio source said that mailing out one DVD to the academy's 14,000 members can cost close to $100,000 when all expenses are tallied up.

For CBS/CBS Par, select episodes of 13 series as well as the mini "Comanche Moon" are available online.

"This is a good way to reach academy members and also not wastefully send out DVDs," CBS Par vp communications Lauri Metrose said. "We know not all academy members are online, but they are definitely moving in that direction."

Warner Bros. Television Group is taking the green theme one step further with a "hybrid campaign," streaming eight shows online and also targeting select peer groups with DVD mailings consisting of recyclable materials. After viewing the episodes, those who receive the mailings can simply peel off a label and put the prepaid-postage package back into the mail, where it will be shipped to Green Disk, recycler of what it calls "technotrash" -- i.e., DVDs.

"We're making a major effort to be environmentally conscious and also save money," WBTVG senior vp publicity Sharan Magnuson said.

She admits that WBTVG's strategy was impacted by fallout from the WGA strike.

Since the seasons of all freshman series were cut short by the strike, WBTV is sending out screeners of all seven of its first-year shows.

"To do seven shows was a lot for us, but we felt it was the right thing to do based on the fact that the new series didn't necessarily have a chance to reach everybody," Magnuson said.

The Disney-ABC Television Group is launching its own "for your consideration" Web site, features a total of 25 shows, two episodes of each.

"It's far more convenient," DATG senior vp communications resources Sharon Williams said. "Anyplace you have Internet access and a laptop becomes a screening room."

Universal Media Studios -- which two years ago introduced iTunes free-download cards for episodes of such shows as "The Office" and "House" -- has tapped BBDO to help with its Emmy campaign this time.

"We feel like all our shows have such Emmy momentum, we really wanted to capitalize on that this year," UMS president Katherine Pope said.

The studio is using an election theme for its campaign, tying it to the presidential race. UMS is mailing out screeners this month that will include buttons featuring slogans like "Baldwin-Fey, All the Way!" ("30 Rock"), "Believe in Steve" ("The Office") and "Get a Clue, Vote SVU" ("Law & Order: SVU").

The studio also is prepping an ad for the trades and Emmy magazine that encourages those who are eligible to become academy members to sign up and "exercise your Emmy rights" to vote if they haven't already done so.

"It's definitely a little bit irreverent but also very in keeping with our shows," Pope said.

For its part, Sony is planning to include its original content produced for the Internet and mobile platforms in its campaign, which will include mailers as well as online streaming.

That includes promoting such shortform digital content as the series "Buried Alive" and Crackle's Penn Jillette Web series "Penn Says."

Sony actually is spending a bit more on its Emmy campaign this year than in 2007 because it has more content to push, executive vp marketing Robert Oswaks said.

Other players also are shaking up their Emmy campaigns.

A&E Network is launching two Web sites, becoming the first to offer an exclusive "for your consideration" site for iPhone and iTouch users.

Bravo is making its series and specials available for download online and will offer screenings on-air -- including 214 programming hours across all dayparts -- eliminating "29,387 pounds in solid waste" and saving 315 trees.

Even the WWE has stepped up its game, scheduling its first academy screening for May 28 for its "Tribute to the Troops" special, followed by a Q&A.

Meanwhile, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has partnered up with The Hollywood Reporter and parent the Nielsen Co. to launch its first official Web site for posting and viewing screeners of Emmy-eligible programs.