Children’s programming will no longer be a part of the Primetime Emmy race effective next year, the Television Academy confirms to Variety. Instead, all children’s fare, no matter what time it ran, will be administered by the East Coast-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which oversees the Daytime Emmys.
The decision by the West Coast-based Television Academy (which oversees the Primetime Emmys) to get out of the kids’ business comes as both orgs, which jointly own the Emmys, continue to figure out awards genre and category jurisdiction in the streaming age, as the definition of various dayparts become blurred.
“If you’re a children’s program that debuts on Netflix, how can you tell whether that was historically going to go into nighttime or the daytime?” asks Television Academy president and chief operating officer Maury McIntyre. “It’s been causing a little bit of confusion.”
In recent years, the Primetime Emmys has handed out an outstanding children’s program award that, per its rules, was meant “for an entertainment series or special or a nonfiction series or special designed primarily for children (ages 2-16) in any format (live action, animation, puppetry). The program’s target audience is children; however, this does not preclude family viewing.”
Because it was an “area award,” the non-competitive category gave an Emmy to any nominee with at least two-thirds approval from voters. In 2020, there were two winners: Netflix’s “Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” and HBO’s “We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest.” (The category’s third nominee was Disney Channel’s “Star Wars Resistance.”)
The Daytime Emmys, on the other hand, currently recognizes several kids categories, including children’s or family viewing series, children’s animated series, short-format children’s program, preschool children’s series, preschool children’s animated series, and many more performance, writing, directing and crafts awards. This year, NATAS even added a young adult program category to the Daytime Emmys for the first time, focused on shows targeting a tween and teen audience.
“It does makes sense to say NATAS runs children,” McIntyre said. “And if you have a children’s program, you should be going over to NATAS. It clears up a lot of stuff.”
It wasn’t just streamers playing a bit fast and loose with whether to enter their kids’ shows in the Primetime or Daytime Emmys. Some linear channels were also debuting certain shows in primetime one year, than in daytime the next, switching which awards show they submitted to, even though it was the same show.
“There’s no question there’s a little bit of the industry sometimes thinking, when they have the option, which is the better option to go to? ‘Where do I have a better chance?’” McIntyre said. “I don’t want to say that they’re gaming the system per se, but they’re certainly taking advantage of the system.”
The Television Academy and NATAS actually took the first step to this change last year, when the two orgs agreed that any primetime offshoot of a daytime program must compete in the Daytime Emmy Awards. “A broadcast series considered eligible for daytime may submit any episode in to the Daytime Emmy Awards contest whether that episode premiered in primetime or daytime hours,” the new rule read. “An episode or special from a series premiering in primetime hours must enter the Daytime Emmys.”
That ended a three-year consecutive streak for “Sesame Street” specials in the Primetime Emmys’ children’s programming race. HBO won the category in 2017, 2018 and 2019 for various “Sesame Street” specials — but in 2020, HBO’s “Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary Celebration” competed for, and won, a Daytime Emmy instead.
Other genres that may eventually need to be addressed include talk shows and game shows. “What we thought the distinction was between, say, a daytime talk show versus late night talk show, a daytime drama versus primetime drama, has all been changed,” said NATAS president/CEO Adam Sharp. “Late night shows tend to have a band and an opening monologue [but] now you’re seeing elements of those [in daytime talk too]. You’re seeing staples of daytime game shows of the 1970s being reinvented as primetime event television. You’re seeing the sort of cliffhanger serial format of daytime soaps, translate into binge worthy digital programs.”
The decision to eliminate the Primetime Emmys’ children’s category won’t change the status of the Television Academy’s children’s programming peer group, as they’ll continue to be a part of the org. A spokesperson noted that the Television Academy is the member organization for all national entertainment television professionals, regardless of the previously segmented daypart they work in. For example, the Academy includes a daytime peer group, even though it’s NATAS that handles Daytime awards.
[Pictured: Netflix’s “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,” which was canceled just days after winning the children’s program Emmy this year.]