New Emmy Rules Open Categories to YouTube and Other Streaming Shorts

Emmy statues new image - H 2014
Associated Press

The TV Academy is also increasing nominee count in writing and directing races and doing away with ranked voting.

The TV Academy is rolling out additional changes for the 2016 Emmys, and it's good news for streamers who deal in short form content.

Starting this year, the Emmys will give more attention to digital and emerging platforms by adding new short form categories and expanding its definition of the genre to include more projects from the likes of Maker Studios, Fullscreen, Crackle, Awesomeness TV, YouTube Red and Adult Swim. Additionally, the Academy is opening up the writing and directing categories for comedy and drama from five to six nominees — among several other rule changes.

"Our governors recognize the volume of really exceptional work of our members and the people on other platforms," Academy chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum tells The Hollywood Reporter, who calls the latest edits a first step. "Look at the quality of talent working in this space. It's the responsibility of our organization to recognize that."

This move will make for the first peer-voted awards for such projects. The only notable streaming races thus far, the Webbys and the Streamys, open up voting to the public — an audience that is known for its enthusiasm.

New categories include outstanding actor and actress in a short form series, outstanding short form series, variety, and the redefinition of two other categories as outstanding short form series, comedy or drama, and outstanding short form series, reality/nonfiction. It won't be difficult finding space for the races. (Potential entrants for these short form categories, it should be noted, are defined as series with a minimum of six episodes running an average of 15 minutes or less per episode, exhibited over-the-air and/or via cable, satellite or Internet.) The Academy announced earlier this year that the Creative Arts ceremony, where these kudos will be handed out, have been split into two different events in the run-up to the traditional Primetime Emmys.

As for the writing and directing categories, Rosenblum says the expansion of nominees was overdue. "To limit ourselves to five nominees seemed a little antiquated," he says, just a year after increasing the number of dramas and comedies in the series race from six to seven nominees. And one change affecting all races is the elimination of ranked voting during the final rounds. Previously, voters ranked their choices from first to sixth or seventh in order of preference. Now voters will be asked to just choose just one winner. (Should a tie occur, the nominee with the most votes in the nominating round will be winner.)

A two-step nomination process for special visual effects categories has also been added, and outstanding costumes for variety, nonfiction or reality will no longer be a juried award (zero noms) with five nominations now possible. The variety directing race has been split into two categories, talk and sketch. And, lastly, should a series be established as a series, it will not be permitted to move into limited/mini categories if its episode count falls below six.

These changes do not seem as sweeping as the ones instituted last year, when the Academy split the variety races, tightened parameters for the definitions of "comedy" and "drama" and nixed the blue-ribbon panels. All of that coincided with the introduction of online voting, something the Academy will continue this year when Emmy nomination voting begins on June 13.

"I think it's all an affirmation that our organization wants to recognize our members' work, regardless of platform or length," Rosenblum sums up. "We will always be the organization that recognizes top achievements on the traditional networks, but our industry is evolving."