Emmy adds contender spot in 10 fields

Brings to six the number of nominees for top awards

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And then there were six.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is expanding the fields for the 10 top Primetime Emmy Awards series categories, increasing the number of nominees from five to six for best drama and comedy series as well as for best lead and supporting actor and actress in comedy and drama series.

In another major procedural change, the recently adopted "two phase" nominating process is being scrapped. For the past three years, nominees in the best series and series acting categories were whittled to 10 finalists through preliminary voting by the entire TV academy membership (in the series categories) or acting peer groups (for the performing categories), then finalized by "blue ribbon" panels.

Originally, those panels had the ultimate say. That was changed in 2007 to 50%, with the membership's early votes accounting for the other 50%.

Reverting to pre-2006 rules, nominees in the drama and comedy series categories will be determined by votes of the entire TV academy membership, while nominees in the drama and comedy series performer categories will be voted on by actor members.

Final voting for the comedy and drama series categories that determines the winners remains unchanged.

The Emmy nomination procedural changes were made after an overwhelming favorable vote by the TV academy's board of governors at its Jan. 21 meeting.

There had been five nominee slots in each category since the Emmys launched in 1949, same as other major awards like the Oscars.

TV academy chairman and CEO John Shaffner does not think expanding the nominee field will dilute TV's top honors.

"There is so much great programming spread on so many delivery platforms," he said. "Because television is the populist medium, we wanted the Emmy Awards to be inclusive in the same populist manner."

The Primetime Emmy Awards Committee recommended changing the number of nominee slots after an annual voter patterns review by TV academy accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Despite officially including five, the series categories often have featured six nominees of late -- eight times in the past 10 years and five in the past two -- when there was a tie or very close vote. Now, if a category's sixth- and seventh-ranked vote-getters are separated by less than 2%, its field will be expanded to seven nominees.

When the two-phase nomination process was established in 2006, it was designed to shake up categories by avoiding perpetual acknowledgment of the same shows and actors in favor of new faces. But the system took shots for its glaring omissions and complexity.

Also, for the past two years, the blue-ribbon panel voting has led to leaks of finalists in the top 10 categories, prompting the TV academy to announce the top 10 candidates for best drama and comedy series last year.

After the 2008 Emmy nominees were announced in July, the TV academy board began its annual evaluation of the two-tier system.

"In the end, it didn't affect the outcome as much as we thought it might, and it was a labor-intensive process," Shaffner said. "It seems it was more confusing to people than it made sense."