Do the Emmys still matter in a TV business under siege?

The 74th Emmy Awards were delivered with characteristic glitz and self-deprecating humor on Monday night, but this year’s show did little to hide the fear stirring up the television industry.

Broadcast networks — where executives fret that the ceremony has turned into a three-hour commercial for their streaming rivals — have been recognized with just three televised awards, compared to 11 for the streamers and 11 for HBO’s cable network.

The show aired on NBC, a network that is considering reducing the number of prime-time airtime shows.

HBO and its streaming arm HBO Max had a lot to celebrate with a total of 38 Emmy awards, of which Netflix surpassed the 26.

But the gains come amid layoffs and cost cuts at parent company Warner Bros. Discovery. HBO Max – home of the Emmy-winning comedy Hacks – will be merged with Discovery’s streaming service next year.

Emmy host Kenan Thompson summed up the state of change in his monologue.

“If you’re over 50, Peacock is NBC’s streaming service,” he said. “And if you’re under 20, NBC is a network that used to show ‘The Office.'”

The divide is one of the many challenges facing the television industry. Wall Street is demanding a path to profitability from the streaming business, even from mighty Netflix, which has been humbled by a slowdown in subscriber growth.

Media companies, still dependent on cable and broadcast television as they transition to streaming, are seeing cable cutting shrink their traditional businesses like an iceberg melting in the sun as they try to compete with well-funded tech companies like Apple and Amazon .

“What we’re going through right now in media and entertainment is the age of great fear,” former Disney CEO Bob Iger said at Vox Media’s Code conference in Beverly Hills last week. “People who run these big companies are concerned. Streaming companies are concerned. Investors are concerned, advertisers are concerned, and the creative community is concerned. Agents are afraid, everyone is afraid.”

Jeff Gaspin, an independent producer and former head of entertainment at NBC, said program vendors, who have benefited from the content boom that has accompanied the proliferation of streaming services, are going through a period of adjustment. He said companies are taking a closer look at the return on investment for programming, particularly higher-priced projects.

“The general mood is a little concerned that there has been a lot of resistance after years of expansion,” Gaspin said. “People are nervous about finances.”

Netflix, the industry’s biggest lender over the past decade, has had a grueling year, tightening its wallet after falling short of expectations for subscriber growth. The Los Gatos, Calif.-based streamer lost more than 1 million subscribers in the first half of this year, laid off hundreds of employees and canceled numerous shows.

Media companies including Walt Disney Co., Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS) and Warner Bros. Discovery have also signed deals and attempted to pay off debts from recent mergers.

WarnerMedia and Discovery merged in April, a $43 billion transaction. Since then, the stock of the new company Warner Bros. Discovery has lost almost 50% of its value.

Investors were concerned about the company’s huge debt burden, the price of AT&T’s failed 2018 acquisition of the company, whose assets include HBO, CNN, TBS, Turner Classic Movies and the Warner Bros. film and television studio in Burbank.

Celebrating HBO employees woke up Tuesday to find out The parent company had ramped up plans to cut about 200 employees from its advertising department.

Company executives are preparing for a brutal layoff-filled slump that will continue steadily into Thanksgiving, according to a senior executive who was not authorized to speak publicly about the downsizing.

In all, more than 1,000 people will be cut by the end of the year, said a senior source who was not authorized to comment on the cuts and asked not to be identified. The company is shedding its workforce to find $3 billion in annual cost savings that Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav promised to Wall Street.

So why worry about winning Emmys when the business is riddled with upheaval and uncertainty like this?

Like any other televised awards ceremony, the Emmys have declined as an annual event that draws large audiences.

NBC’s show reached 5.9 million viewers on Monday, a new low, according to Nielsen data.

The number is down 20% from last year’s show on CBS (7.4 million viewers), which was up slightly from 2020, when the previous low of 6.37 million viewers was hit on ABC.

But in a more fragmented television universe, with critical mass becoming increasingly difficult to achieve, awards have become more important as a marketing tool. Even a nomination serves as a seal of approval, a signal to consumers to try something when the choices seem overwhelming.

Programmers know that the majority of television viewers will only watch video clips of the most poignant or craziest moment on the Emmys show. But what remains is to say that a show has been nominated — or won — for an Emmy, which piques the interest of a streaming subscriber.

“The Emmys have real value, especially for streamers,” Gaspin said. “It’s like what the Emmys meant to HBO years ago and later Showtime.”

After HBO and Netflix, Hulu was third with eight wins, followed by seven each for Apple TV+ and NBC. Disney+ and Prime Video each had six.

The Emmys have rarely given winners a significant ratings boost, although the awards have saved some shows from cancellation. But data shows that the upswing for streaming programming — which is available on demand — is real.

A review by Parrot Analytics found that over the past several years, interest in shows like Amazon Prime’s Fleabag, Netflix original series The Queen’s Gambit, and HBO’s Game of Thrones have skyrocketed as viewers immediately after their Emmy wins is The Shows.

The show that made the biggest leap among recent winners was “Ted Lasso,” after the Apple TV+ show took home its first award for Outstanding Comedy Series last year.

The win still matters for HBO, where executives, producers and stars celebrated their Emmy haul at an exclusive private club, the San Vicente Bungalows, which only seated 600 people. In recent years, HBO has celebrated its many victories at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center, where nearly 2,000 invited guests crowded into a cavernous space lavishly decorated with diverse themes and ornate ice sculptures.

On Monday night, the clubrooms buzzed with stars from HBO shows, some sporting their Emmy statuettes. Much of the cast of “Succession,” including Brian Cox, Matthew Macfadyen (who won as Supporting Actor), Sarah Snook, and Nicholas Braun, partied in a wood-paneled room with a taco bar. Mike White, creator of The White Lotus, who won Emmys for writing, directing, and best limited or anthology series, hopped through the crowd with a Hawaiian lei.

One executive privately joked, “The end of the world is coming,” but slightly in jest. But when asked if he’s felt programming cords tighten under the new Discovery regime, HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys just smiled and said, “Not yet.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-09-13/2022-emmys-tv-business-netflix-streaming-hbo Do the Emmys still matter in a TV business under siege?

Sarah Ridley

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