Why the TV Academy Sidestepped Debate Over Corporate Bragging Rights With This Year’s Emmys

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It was the Television Academy’s version of “if you kids don’t behave, we’re turning this car around.” And this year, that’s exactly what the org did. When this year’s Emmy nominations were announced on July 12, the TV Academy decided not to tally up the contenders by network.

Sort of. The group still sent out a document listing all nominees by network as submitted but left the hard work of counting those noms, and deciding how to present that data, to others. This caused a lot of scrambling on nomination morning — and resulted in some early bad math — before it finally became clear that HBO, with or without HBO Max, had won this year’s derby over Netflix.

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The decision to eliminate those network tallies has everything to do with the inter-network squabble over how they identify themselves. It’s all about ego and bragging rights, and after things got testy last year, the TV Academy decided to extract itself from the debate — and yes, turn the car around and head home.

The argument centers on whether HBO and HBO Max should combine their noms. Last year, it was only when the two combined that HBO beat out Netflix. This year, those concerns were moot, as HBO by itself was the leader, with 108 nominations versus 105 for Netflix. But combine HBO’s number with HBO Max’s 32, and suddenly that 140 total looks a lot more dominant.

So what’s the right way to go? If you, like me, think HBO and HBO Max will eventually be the same thing (as linear fades away), it probably, ultimately, won’t matter, and the outlet will simple be called “HBO,” “HBO Max” or even just “Max.”

But for now, HBO /HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys notes that it’s already one company under his oversight, so ultimately it should be combined as one number.

“I can’t think of another platform that has the same management, the same business affairs, the same production, same programming head,” he told me after the nominations were announced. “Everything on HBO airs on HBO Max.”

On the other hand, as Netflix would counter, HBO Max has a team under Sarah Aubrey that reports to Bloys, and it’s still accessed via very different platforms. The HBO shows are “HBO Originals,” and the HBO Max shows are deemed “Max Originals.” Hulu, ABC, Disney+, FX and Freeform all report to Dana Walden at Disney, but their respective nominations are counted toward their individual outlets.

But here’s where it gets tricky again. Disney has its own dilemma: How do you count FX versus FX exclusives on Hulu versus Hulu? And what about the Nat Geo-produced shows for Disney+? Why does FX get credit for the shows it airs only on Hulu, yet Disney+ takes credit for the Nat Geo shows that appear only on its service?

Disney also punted on the issue, opting not to deliver a network tally in its press release July 12. Instead, just like the Television Academy, Disney shared its big nominations haul via a show-by-show tally. That allowed the company to tout a total of 147 Primetime Emmy noms without getting into the specifics of that count.

The network tally debate is just a microcosm of the larger branding issue facing the con- gloms as they enter the stream- ing age. Disney got rid of the “FX on Hulu” branding for FX shows found only on Hulu — but in some ways, that just made the marketing even more confus- ing. Amazon chastises reporters for calling its service “Amazon Prime Video,” demanding that it just be referred to as “Prime Video” — yet it promotes its new Freevee service as “Amazon Freevee.” And it’s unclear whether consumers understand the difference between AMC and AMC+, or BET and BET+. And now there’s talk that Warner Bros. Discovery will rename HBO Max — just when users have gotten used to the moniker.

It’s no wonder the Television Academy this year just focused on show tallies. At least in that case, there’s no question that “Succession” is the bona fide leader, with 25 nominations on HBO. Or is that HBO Max?

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