Emmys’ Confusing Nomination Formula No Longer Makes Sense Post-Peak TV


Math is hard. It’s why some of us got into journalism, where we deal with words — not numbers. But covering the TV Academy and the Emmy Awards in recent years has become a bit of a test in complex calculations.

The major change happened in 2020, when the rules were amended so that each category’s number of nominees was determined by the number of submissions received. The exception was comedy and drama series, which each are set with eight nominations (I still would like to see this bumped up to a nice, round 10, but that is a fight I am forever losing with the Academy.)

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The new equations were a nod to Peak TV, and the fact that many categories were bursting with contenders. As part of that sliding scale, categories could potentially expand to as many as eight nominees — or as few as two, depending on how many contenders were submitted in each race.

We now know that TV submissions peaked in 2022, and the last two years have seen a decline. So there are fewer nominees in many of the major categories — and there are sure to be a lot more bruised egos and upset superstars when the Emmy noms are announced on July 17. (Get ready for a much larger roundup of “snubs and surprises” than usual!)

This year, as counted by my colleague Clayton Davis (with help from Variety‘s fantastic interns), there has been a 33% decrease in major series category submissions. That’s partly due to last year’s Hollywood strikes. But it’s also a sign that the era of hefty series volume has come to a close.

With fewer submissions, the Academy’s sliding scale of nominations has also become less relevant. Fewer categories are now able to go beyond five nominations (out of between 20 and 80 submissions). Between 81 and 160 submissions are needed to expand to six nominees.

This year, among acting categories, only drama actor and actress will get those six. And that was by a hair: Just 81 performers were submitted for lead actor, while lead actress only had 67 submissions but per Emmy rules gets gender parity.

Comedy’s lead acting fields weren’t so lucky, dipping to 55 actor and 58 actress submissions total, leaving those categories with five nominees. It’s the same story in limited/anthology/TV movie lead actor (70) and actress (62), which also will drop to five nominees each this year.

Even the supporting acting categories — many of which in recent times has made it to eight nominations, which requires more than 240 submissions — won’t get there this year. In 2024, there just aren’t enough entries, which means most of the supporting fields have shrunk to seven nominees each — while supporting comedy actor and supporting comedy actress are down to just six nominees apiece.

You following me so far? Don’t worry, it just gets more complicated. Several categories had fewer submissions than 20 — particularly in talk series (14) and scripted variety (believed to be four), which had so few that it has moved to a juried category.

Under a recently amended rule, if there are fewer than eight submissions, they’ll “be screened by the appropriate peer group(s) for nomination; any entry (up to two) that receives 70% approval will receive a nomination.”

This is widely seen as a way to still get “Saturday Night Live” and “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” nominations in the scripted variety category. Before that last-minute tweak, shows needed a 90% approval — and there was a possiblity that one (or neither!) of those shows would get in.

Meanwhile, categories with between eight to 19 submissions land their nominee tally by “dividing the number of submissions by four and round to the nearest whole number.” This year, talk received 14 submissions. Divided by four, that’s 3.5. Round it up and you get four nominees.

Things just get more complicated from there, and I won’t try to get deeper into it. But suffice to say, all of this may have become too complicated for even the most plugged-in awards guru to grasp.

Here’s perhaps a solution: Expand the major series categories to ten. Standardize the acting categories to eight. And in talk and variety, take a page from the L.A. Area Emmy awards and make everyone a contender — allowing voters to choose the winner from the entire pool. See you in a few weeks for Phase 2!

(And now, below, the rules. There will be a pop quiz.)


1. Nominations will be based on the number of submissions received in each category:
• 20 – 80 submissions = 5 nominations
• 81 – 160 submissions = 6 nominations
• 161 – 240 submissions = 7 nominations
• > 240 submissions = 8 nominations

• The following exceptions will apply:
• Comedy Series and Drama Series will have eight nominations
o Actor and Actress categories for the same genre/category designation, i.e., supporting actor comedy and supporting actress comedy, will have parity in the number of nominations (except in categories with fewer than 20 submissions).
• Categories with fewer than 20 submissions
o 0 – 7 submissions = submissions will be screened by the appropriate peer group(s) for nomination; any entry (up to two) that receives 70% approval will receive a nomination
o 8 – 19 submissions = divide the number of submissions by 4 and round to the nearest whole number

2. In the case of ties, the closest number to the targeted number of nominations will prevail, unless there are fewer than three or more than seven nominations, in which case the Awards Committee will determine the number of nominations.

3. Ties that include the possibility of the total number of nominations being 1 number from the target number of nominations break in favor of the higher possibility, e.g., 4 or 6 breaks to 6.

4. Ties that include the possibility of the total number of nominations being 2 numbers from the target number of nominations break in favor of the lower possibility, e.g., 3 or 7 breaks to 3.

5. Ties that include the possibility of the total number of nominations being 3 numbers from the target number of nominations are resolved by the Awards Committee, e.g., 2 or 8 does not automatically break and must go to the Awards Committee for a final decision.

6. In some categories, there are distinct types of programs (“Tracks”) vying for the requisite nomination slots in a system where the number of nominations is meted out proportionately to the number of entries.

The minimum number of submissions required to include a track for nomination is 5% of the total number of submissions, provided the 5% is no less than three submissions. However, if a track receives zero votes, no nominations will emerge from that track.

In any year where the number of submissions for each track is 20 or more, the category will automatically be split into separate categories for the current year.

7. Nominated achievements may be withdrawn from nomination by a sole nominee, or all nominated members of a team. Individual nominees on a team may withdraw themselves, but the nomination will stand if at least one team member remains.

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