Emmy Season Starts Now

Cliff Lipson/Showtime

Showtime gets an early jump on competitors with an elaborate screener mailing to Television academy voters.

The Emmys might not take place until September, but the TV networks are already strategizing how best to woo awards voters. As it has been for the past few years, Showtime is first out of the gate with its DVD screeners, sending out a box March 4 to the 14,000 voting members of the TV academy, offering a few episodes of its comedy, drama and reality fare. Members are also receiving personalized codes to access a screening room to watch full seasons of shows including The Big C, Dexter and the first-year dramedy Shameless, which will be submitted for consideration as a drama.

“Years ago, I realized as a TV academy member that the glut of screeners around balloting time was overwhelming and actually jeopardized being a responsible voter,” says Showtime executive vp and awards guru Richard Licata. “So we developed a plan to send full seasons of our series every March, affording members plenty of time to watch and consider.”

Rival HBO, which will be touting, among other offerings, Boardwalk Empire and its upcoming Kate Winslet miniseries Mildred Pierce, plans to send its Emmy screeners in two waves, the first in mid-April and the second in early May. AMC, whose Mad Men has captured the outstanding drama series Emmy the past two years, will send its screeners in April, while other networks, including FX, are targeting early- to mid-May, just ahead of the June 6 start of nomination balloting. An early jump doesn’t necessarily lead to more Emmy nominations, of course, but Showtime is hoping to win admirers by including an extra treat in its screener package: the first two episodes of director Neil Jordan’s anticipated Jeremy Irons drama The Borgias, which won’t premiere until April 3.