Emmy list goes primetime early

Web leak puts security, voting methods in question

An online leak about the Primetime Emmy Award finalists in the comedy and drama series categories raised questions Monday about the security and future of the Emmy voting process.

When TheEnvelope.com posted the list of the top 10 finalists in each category during the weekend, citing multiple judges who were screening the series as sources, it also shed light into this year's voting process.

According to the site, the drama finalists are ABC's "Boston Legal," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Lost"; NBC's "Friday Night Lights" and "Heroes"; Fox's "House" and "24"; Showtime's "Dexter"; and HBO's "Rome" and "The Sopranos." The comedy finalists, according to the site, are ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Ugly Betty"; NBC's "My Name Is Earl," "The Office," "Scrubs" and "30 Rock"; CBS' "Two and a Half Men"; HBO's "Entourage" and "Extras"; and Showtime's "Weeds."

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which oversees the Primetime Emmy Awards, declined comment on the accuracy of the lists.

It is unclear whether ATAS is planning to launch an investigation into the sources of the leak. But in a statement, the academy pointed out that all Emmy judges are required to sign a confidentiality agreement.

"The Primetime Emmy nomination process should not be compromised by premature disclosure of nominations information prior to the announcement of the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards nominees on July 19," the statement read. "All television academy members who take part in the judging process are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement; the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will not comment on any violations of that agreement or on any speculative reporting of nomination data."

At least one network source was pleased that the lists of finalists were leaked. The source, who did not wish to be named, said that ATAS should make it a policy to start announcing the top 10 finalists on its own every year.

The leak could be linked to a change in the Emmy voting procedures this year.

The finalists — selected by the entire ATAS membership — are being screened in Los Angeles and New York by blue-ribbon panels consisting of several hundred academy members.

One rule change this year ensured that all panelists would know all series that made the cut as the top 10 in a certain category instead of only a few apiece, as they did last year. That makes it more difficult to keep the identity of the finalists under wraps. It remains to be seen whether ATAS will revamp the voting process again as a result of the leak.

The final five nominees — or six, if the vote is close enough, according to a new rule — will be determined for the first time by combining the popular vote with the panel scoring on a 50-50 basis. (Last year, only the panels chose the final five series nominees from a group of finalists picked by ATAS membership. The panels were introduced last year with the goal of giving newcomers and overlooked series a better shot at Emmy recognition.)

The Primetime Emmy nominations are set to be announced July 19.