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ATAS Changes Emmy Rules

Further tweaking its Primetime Emmy nomination procedures following last year’s controversy, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) board of governors Wednesday night approved a rules change reducing the number of series and performer candidates eligible to be nominated.

Under the revision, 10 instead of 15 top vote-getters chosen by the entire ATAS membership will now be considered for nominations by blue ribbon peer panels.

If 11th-place candidates come within 2% of the final 10 in total votes, they will be considered too.

“What we discovered last year was that the top-five—the nominees—emerged from the top-10, and so this year we removed the irrelevant 11-15 vote-getters,” says John Leverence, senior VP of awards for ATAS.

After the blue ribbon panels drew heat in 2006, ATAS changed its procedures so that starting this year both the popular and judging panel votes will hold equal weight in deciding the nominees.

It also reduced the size of the peer panels, which in the case of best comedy and drama performers had been convened around the July 4th holiday.

That caused headaches for members charged with whittling the field down to the five nominees, since they had to take time out of their schedules to convene at the Academy.

The governors voted Wednesday to give the newly comprised panels a reprieve and allow them to judge the actors’ compilation reels from home.

ATAS also revised procedures for guest and supporting performers.

In 2006, guest performers qualified by having billing in six or fewer episodes. The comp reel they submitted had to include all of their appearances, but now there is no episodic cap.

“We found that legitimate guest performers could have more than six episodes and (choose) a single episode to represent their work,” Leverence says.

Supporting players, meanwhile, now need only submit their appearances in a single episode rather than any two episodes like last year.

ATAS previously initiated new rules requiring supporting actors to appear in at least 5% of a production. The switch came after last year’s uproar over Ellen Burstyn’s supporting actress nod for a miniseries or special, in which she logged nearly 15 seconds of screen time in HBO’s Mrs. Harris.