Emcees catch an Emmy break

Separate awards for variety hosts and performers among rule changes

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert won't be losing to Tony Bennett and Barry Manilow at the Emmys again.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has tweaked its rules in several categories, including splitting the individual performance in a variety or music program field into two: one for hosts of comedy/variety/ music series and one for performers in such specials.

The rule change reverts the nominations setup to the way it was before the two categories were combined in 1997, resulting in awkward face-offs.

For instance, in 2007, Bennett was nominated in the category for his NBC music special and beat out Oscar show host Ellen DeGeneres and late-night frontmen Stewart, Colbert and David Letterman.

The year before, Manilow's performance in his music specials won over Colbert, Letterman, late-nighter Craig Ferguson and Tonys host Hugh Jackman.

No host of a talk show has won since the categories were merged, with musicians (Bennett, Manilow, Barbra Streisand, Sting, Bette Midler) or the stars of comedy/stand-up specials (Don Rickles, Elaine Stritch, Eddie Izzard, John Leguizamo) taking the trophy. Award show hosts Jackman (for the 2005 Tonys) and Billy Crystal (for the 1998 Oscars) also were winners.

Other Emmy nomination rule changes:

The changes follow ATAS' decision last month to expand the best series and best series acting categories from five to six slots each.

The new Emmy nomination rules will be posted today on ATAS' Web site. The deadline to submit nominations for the 61st Emmy Awards is April 24. (partialdiff)