History of the Television Academy
THE BEGINNING: SYD CASSYD’S DREAM
The history of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences dates to the earliest days of the television industry itself. When Syd Cassyd, its founder, first conceived of the organization, he envisioned a serious forum where all aspects and concerns of the fledgling medium could be discussed. Flash and glamor were of no interest to Cassyd. Indeed, for years he refused to even consider the notion of handing out awards.
“He thought television was a really wonderful tool for education,” recalled his daughter, Donna Cassyd. “He used to make us watch shows like Omnibus, with Alistair Cook.”
Fortunately for Cassyd and the other founders of the Television Academy, the organization eventually became both a place for serious discussion as well as a place to celebrate the industry’s finest achievements with its annual Emmy Awards ceremonies.
As a young man, Cassyd had his heart in the entertainment business and visions of television innovations to come. Before the outbreak of World War II, he taught film at NYU-Washington Square College, and wrote and narrated a radio series, Human Relations in Motion Pictures.
During wartime, Cassyd served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a film editor under Col. Frank Capra. When the war ended, he worked on newsreels in Astoria, New York. Shortly afterward, he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a grip at Paramount Studios and did various other odd jobs before becoming an entertainment journalist at Film World, Box Office and TV World.
When Cassyd called the first meeting of the Television Academy on November 14, 1946, TV sets in private homes were still something of a novelty. By that year’s end, only 4,000 homes in Los Angeles had televisions, and only about 50,000 homes across the United States.
Undeterred by the modest numbers, Cassyd sought to bring together influential people working in the nascent industry to “exchange ideas.” At the first meeting in Los Angeles, five people showed up; a week later, the number had grown to 25 and by the fifth meeting there were 250 members.
The group’s founders included S.R. Rabinof, head of the American Television Laboratories; Orville Engstrom, a Glendale, California, teacher; cartoon producer Morrie Goldman; Sam Nathanson, president of Meridian Pictures; radio station owner Harmon Stevens; special effects executive Russell Furse; Harry Lubcke, a television engineering executive; and Klaus Landsberg, who founded Los Angeles’ first TV station, KTLA.
The early years were not easy for the new group, as it battled for attention with other, more established entertainment associations. But Cassyd, who seemed to possess enough energy to power a television station on his own, was more than up to the task. As longtime trade journalist Morrie Gelman put it, “He was high-spirited, full of ideas and a sweet guy.”
Cassyd, who went on to produce children’s programming and to found TV News magazine, came up with the idea of structuring the organization around “peer groups,” people from all television professions—actors, writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, set designers, and various other artisans, technicians and executives—who could get together and discuss ideas and concerns with others in their field on a regular basis and vote on representatives to sit on a Television Academy board.
The major obstacle to the organization’s growth, as Cassyd noted in his memoir, Emmy Awards Confidential, was the fact that television was perceived as a major threat to motion picture studios and producers. Thus, the Television Academy received little to no support from the most influential figures in the Hollywood community.
But Cassyd and his colleagues hung on. In an effort to burnish the group’s reputation, heighten its profile and earn it much-needed respect, they sought out established entertainment personalities. Their efforts were rewarded in 1947, when Edgar Bergen, the famed radio ventriloquist of the 1930s and ’40s, and father of actress Candice Bergen, became the Television Academy’s first president.
Other well-known entertainment figures who have served as president include producer Hal Roach, Jr., actor Charlie Ruggles, actor Don Defore, writer-producer Rod Serling, songwriter Johnny Mercer and news anchor Walter Cronkite.
EMMY IS BORN
Through the early 1950s, the Television Academy’s stature rose significantly with the emergence of the one event that would give it unparalleled visibility—the Emmys. Influenced by the New York-based American Television Society, which he had joined in 1945, Cassyd initially rejected the idea of television awards. Indeed, when the Television Academy was formally incorporated as a nonprofit organization, its stated objective was “to promote the cultural, educational and research aim of television.”
Cassyd’s earnest stance was admirable, but ultimately the Television Academy’s founding fathers, recognizing the image-building and public-relations opportunities associated with an annual awards ceremony, changed his mind. Once they agreed to go forward with awards, the founders were faced with two daunting questions: what to name the award, and what it should look like.
Cassyd initially proposed that the award be called “Ike,” the nickname for a television iconoscope tube, but it was deemed too evocative of WWII hero General Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower. Henry Lubcke, the third Television Academy president, eventually prevailed with “Immy,” after the image-orthicon camera tube, which was instrumental in the development of television. “Immy” was feminized as “Emmy” to complement the design chosen for the statuette, which depicted a winged, idealized woman holding an atom.
Her wings represented the muse of art, and the atom and its electrons the science and technology of the new medium. The Television Academy rejected 47 proposals before accepting the statuette designed by television engineer Louis McManus, whose wife served as its model.
The first Emmy Awards, which were devoted solely to local Los Angeles programming, were held on January 25, 1949, at the Hollywood Athletic Club. The maiden Emmy, for Outstanding Personality, went to Shirley Dinsdale, a 20-year-old ventriloquist from UCLA, star of the children’s show Judy Splinters—named after her talking puppet and broadcast on local station KTLA.
Five other awards were given out that year, including Most Popular Program, which went to the game show Pantomime Quiz Time, hosted by noted personality and producer Mike Stokey, who in 1951 became the Academy’s fifth president, and presided over the fourth Emmys telecast on February 14, 1952.
Over time, the Emmys expanded to include national programs and personalities. As the 1950s progressed, during the so-called Golden Age of Television, the Academy’s efforts centered almost exclusively on the Emmy Awards.
Most troubling to Cassyd was his concern that the Television Academy had developed a reputation as a group engaged in a struggle for recognition with a rival television organization based in New York City and led by legendary variety show host Ed Sullivan. This would eventually lead to an uneasy marriage and, ultimately, a bitter divorce.
From 1954 through 1970, the Emmys originated from both Los Angeles and New York City. New York’s inclusion was important, because the West Coast-based Television Academy was looking to build the Emmys into a national TV event. In the early days of television, a significant amount of production was done in New York, but as production shifted to Los Angeles in the 1960s, the emphasis of the Emmy shifted as well.
NEW YORK ACADEMY FORMED
In 1955, spurred by the success of the Emmys, Ed Sullivan organized a group of East Coast TV professionals and established a New York-based Television Academy. Two years later, the Los Angeles and New York groups united to form a new entity, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, with Sullivan as its first president.
Every two years a member from Los Angeles and New York would alternate in the organization’s top post. (In the beginning, the Television Academy had no need for a staff. Later, as the organization grew, a paid staff was hired to handle its day-to-day affairs. When this occurred, the group changed its title structure and the highest-ranking salaried position was called executive director, and the highest-ranking elected non-salaried position was called president.)
After the 1957 unification with the New York chapter, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences expanded regionally, with new chapters in major markets. The regional chapters eventually began producing their own local Emmy awards shows, mostly for local news programming.
As the Television Academy sought to elevate the profile of the Emmysin the mid ‘60s, public relations became increasingly important. In an effort to boost publicity, industry publicist Hank Rieger, who went on to serve as Television Academy president from 1977-1980, was enlisted to turn the announcement of each year’s Emmy nominees into an event.
“Tom Sarnoff [future Television Academy Foundation Chairman and Rieger’s former boss at NBC] said to me, ‘You are going to get active in the Academy, and you are going to help Bob Lewine stage the awards and announce the nominees,’” said Rieger. At the time, Lewine was the National Television Academy’s top-ranking salaried executive and had also served as the National Television Academy’s top-ranking elected official.
In 1965, the Television Academy staged its first morning nominations announcement event from the West Coast. At 10 a.m. in the American Room at the Brown Derby restaurant, a release was handed out and the press was able to interview Television Academy president Lewine about the nominees and upcoming awards ceremony.
This event would eventually grow to include showy announcements by major celebrities at other prominent locations, among them the Los Angeles Press Club, the Pasadena Auditorium Gold Room and Preview House in Hollywood. For the past decade and a half, nominees have been announced at the Television Academy’s North Hollywood headquarters in the pre-dawn hours to facilitate live East Coast coverage on the national morning news shows.
“Over time, we started making the announcements in the very early morning, similar to the Motion Picture Academy,” said Rieger. “That gave the event even more prestige.” By the late ’60s, the networks were paying a premium for that prestige. The $750,000 license fee paid to the Television Academy was a significant increase from the $5,000 NBC paid to air the broadcast in 1954.
TENSIONS ESCALATE: LOS ANGELES AND NEW YORK
Beginning in the early 1960s, tensions began to brew between the Los Angeles and New York chapters of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. One early source of friction was staff president Bob Lewine’s decision in 1964 to move the national office from New York, where it had been located since the 1957 merger, to Hollywood—a shift that irked the New York membership.
Ultimately, most of the internal conflicts between the two coasts centered on issues involving the integrity of the membership and the purity of the Emmy awards, both of which were of major concern to the Los Angeles chapter.
Sonny Fox, the noted television host (The $64,000 Question) who served as New York chapter president from 1966-1968, and as national chairman in 1970, had to contend with various Emmy-related disputes. Yet even amid this period of dissension, there were significant positive developments, such as Fox’s efforts to establish an International Television Council, which paved the way for the International Television Emmys in the early 1970s.
Fox’s proudest achievement during his term in national office was the development of strong alliances with the networks in their battles with government regulators. In 1970, when CBS News was producing a story about the Pentagon Papers, federal courts sought to force the network to release its video outtakes. Fox thought this was wrong.
“I didn’t have permission to do this,” Fox recalled, “but I got the Academy to file an amicus [friend of the court] brief with the Supreme Court. I remember getting a letter from [then president of CBS] Frank Stanton saying, ‘Now I know why there is an Academy.’ I was pleased by that. It was a good thing to have done.”
BICOASTAL CONTENTIONS LEAD TO SPLIT
During the early 1970s, despite all best efforts to coexist in harmony, relations between the Los Angeles and New York constituencies continued to fray.
In general, Los Angeles believed that the New York chapter, which advocated full voting rights for every member of every chapter, was too liberal and inclusive in its standards. By contrast, New York regarded the Los Angeles chapter as exclusionary and elitist.
By 1976, the situation had exacerbated to the point where, at the semiannual official national board meeting at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, each chapter designated five-man negotiation teams to meet separately from the rest of the attendees for a two-day summit convened to broker a detente.
The Los Angeles contingent consisted of Michael Baugh, Dixon Dern, Hank Rieger,the late Bob Sweeney and then Los Angeles chapter president Larry Stewart, who was chairman of the negotiating committee. “We negotiated it like it was a labor contract, and we came to an agreement that would keep us together,” said Rieger. “It was an agreement contingent upon board approval by both New York and Los Angeles. Our board approved it.”
One of the agreement’s key points was that only members who participated in national television would be allowed to vote. The Atlanta chapter, for instance, could not vote on the Primetime Emmys, but most of the New York contingent could. Although John Cannon, who was a member of the National Academy negotiating committee and the New York chapter president at the time, went along with this settlement stipulation, when he brought the agreement back to the New York chapter board, he recommended that it be voted down.
Finally, in May 1976, just after the Emmy Awards ceremony at the Schubert Theatre in Century City, the Los Angeles chapter filed a lawsuit to dissolve the organization. The New York chapter promptly countersued to take over the entire Television Academy.
For the duration of the litigation, a judge froze the respective bodies’ assets, presenting a tremendous obstacle to day-to-day operations. Fortunately for the Los Angeles contingent, its popular film group program, established by longtime board member and entertainment industry publicist Murray Weissman, who arranged screenings of newly released movies for the members, provided enough revenue for the organization to keep its doors open while the suit was being resolved.
After much legal wrangling, the two groups agreed to sever in 1977. According to the terms of the dissolution, both would retain their national status, with the group in Los Angeles retaining its original name, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and the New York body retaining the name of National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Each group would also control specific award shows: the Los Angeles-based Television Academy kept the Primetime Emmys, and jurisdiction over the Los Angeles chapter; the New York entity retained the Daytime, News, Documentary and Sports Emmys, as well as jurisdiction over the 19 chapters throughout the U.S. that produced their own local Emmy events.
As part of the agreement, both Academies would receive 15 percent of the television revenues for each other’s respective Emmy broadcasts, and both share ownership of the Emmy statue. “It’s a very unusual procedure,” said Dixon Dern, entertainment lawyer and the Los Angeles Television Academy’s longtime general counsel. “Normally, trademarks are held by one trademark owner or another. But the Emmy trademark is actually owned by both ATAS and NATAS.”
AFTER THE DIVORCE
In the aftermath of the schism, the Los Angeles-based Television Academy blossomed. Many of its advances took place within its Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation. Established April 23, 1959, the Television Academy Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which was largely inactive during the 1960s.
Although it was originally conceived to handle fundraising, its mission has since evolved, and it is now dedicated to preserving and celebrating the medium of television, and educating those who will impact its future.
One of its most important components is the ATAS/UCLA Television Archives, which was created in 1965 in conjunction with UCLA’s Department of Theater Arts, and contains the largest collection of kinescopes, tapes and films from the earliest days of television.
Since 1977, the Television Academy Foundation has shepherded a large number of educational outreach programs, including a summer internship program through which students learn their craft from industry professionals. Other programs that developed out of this era include the College Television Awards, Faculty Seminar and a visiting professionals program.
In 1978, producers David Wolper and Stan Margulies were named chairmen of the Primetime Awards Committee, in which capacity they oversaw the reduction of overall Emmy Awards handed out each year from 83 to 57, and the number of awards handed out during the Emmy broadcast from 41 to 27.
1979 marked the launch of the Television Academy’s official publication, emmy magazine, as a vehicle for the Academy to communicate with, and reach out to, its members, and to further establish a public presence for the Academy.
In 1980, then Television Academy president and former Screen Gems executive John Mitchell created the Television Academy Hall of Fame, into which major television figures are inducted each year. Mitchell also laid the groundwork for a permanent Television Academy home.
Jolting the Television Academy’s profile in 1983, actress Diana Muldaur became the organization’s second female leader; actress Gail Patrick Jackson, who served as Los Angeles chapter president from 1960-1962, had been the first. “It was a boys’ club,” said Muldaur. “And when I came in, things weren’t good. The East Coast wasn’t talking to the West Coast. Cable was just starting, and the networks were frightened.”
One of Muldaur’s greatest challenges involved the Daytime Emmys, which did not air in 1983 and 1984 due in part to questions that had been raised about the integrity of the voting procedures. In an effort to restore confidence in the awards and to improve the overall production, New York-based NATAS, which had retained the Daytime Emmys in the 1977 split, asked the Los Angeles-based Television Academy, per the terms of the divorce settlement agreement, to take over administration of the judging of the Daytime Awards.
Muldaur’s actions to smooth over these differences paved the way in later years for cable television, which had previously been ineligible, to enter the Emmy fold as well. In 1988, for the first time, cable programming was allowed to compete for Emmy Awards. Previously, the cable industry celebrated its programming with its Cable Ace Awards, an event that continued into the early 1990s.
In 1982, longtime PBS executive James Loper became executive director of the Television Academy, a job he would hold for almost two decades. It was Loper who pushed the Academy to become a more businesslike, financially viable organization.
“It was operating under a budget of about $1 million,” said Loper. “I thought to myself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ but we gradually built it, and it proved wise to have someone that was involved with the Hollywood community [in my position].”
FOX GRABS THE SHOW
In the late 1980s, a push within the Television Academy to generate more revenues coincided with a new network’s push to raise its profile. In 1987, with Walt Disney Company executive Richard Frank serving as president, the Academy made a bold move to license the Emmy Awards ceremony in a multi-year deal to the Fox network, which at the time was in its first year of existence, for $3 million a year.
The decision infuriated the three major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, which until that time had taken turns airing the Emmys.
“There was a pitiful amount of [television] license fees from the Emmy Awards—a tenth of what the Motion Picture Academy was getting,” said Loper. “With Rich Frank as president, we made a controversial decision to go with Fox, and get out of the rotational situation among the networks. We dramatically upped the money for the Academy. We suffered a lot of slings and arrows, and [threatened] boycotts from other networks, which never happened.”
Ratings for the Emmys were down significantly that year. In 1986, NBC posted a 23.1 rating for the ceremony, but the first year on Fox that figure tumbled to an 8.8 rating. Through 1992, the final year of the Fox deal, Emmy ratings barely cracked double digits. The low numbers were not surprising given that Fox, which was still a fledgling network, did not have stations in many markets, thereby limiting its audience reach—and its ratings potential.
In light of the falling numbers during the Fox deal, Richard Frank felt that a single network would be more committed to making the awards a success. Thus, in 1993, ABC signed a four-year pact to broadcast the Emmys, for a fee of $2.5 million per year. Once again, however, the rival networks were displeased. So much so that CBS, NBC and Fox refused to buy tickets to the Emmys or the post-Emmys Governors Ball, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The ill will was so palpable that the following year, the Television Academy dissolved the ABC agreement and returned to a “wheel” system under which each network would take a turn airing the Emmys.
THE ROARING ’90s AND A TELEVISION ACADEMY HOME
The late 1980s marked a major push to establish a permanent Television Academy building, and specifically a state-of-the-art theater, for which ABC chief Leonard H. Goldenson, at the urging of former ABC president Elton Rule, donated a $1 million construction grant.
A location was chosen in North Hollywood, which would house administrative offices, a place to hold screenings as well as meetings for the peer groups, of which there were 25 at the time.
In May of 1991, the Television Academy moved into its new headquarters at the corner of Lankershim and Magnolia Boulevards, replete with an enormous fountain dominated by a 27-foot Emmy Award statue. The statue and Hall of Fame Plaza were conceived and overseen by production designer Jan Scott, winner of 11 Primetime Emmy awards—more than any other woman in the history of television.
Scott personally supervised the contracting and placement of the bronze Hall of Fame inductee sculptures in the plaza, as well as the bas-reliefs that adorn the exterior walls of the theatre. Before her death in 2003, she had served as an officer and member of the Television Academy board and executive committee for nearly 20 years.
A main feature of the grounds is the 600-seat Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre. The surrounding buildings’ gentle earth tones prompted Debbie Reynolds to remark to the Los Angeles Times, “Let’s call the color a sandy peach so it doesn’t sound like pink.”
At the forefront of the site selection and construction was sound executive Leo Chaloukian, who had served on the building committee in the early 1980s, and continued his involvement with the project through his term as president in the early 1990s. “John Mitchell gave birth to it,” said Chaloukian. “All I did was raise the child.”
In addition to overseeing the building project, Chaloukian also helped to streamline the peer group process. At least 80 people are required to form a peer group, and some have numbers approaching 1,500 members.
Until Chaloukian’s era, each peer group’s representation consisted solely of two governors, who were elected to serve as members of the board. But as peer groups grew in size, the task of representing and managing all of the duties for a group’s members proved increasingly daunting for just two people. To ameliorate the dilemma, Chaloukian instituted a by-laws change.
“What I did was start a structure of an executive committee for each peer group,” he said. “So, for instance, in the sound group there are 10 committee members and two governors. Now, for instance, the governors wouldn’t be the only ones to accept new members.”
AL GORE KEYNOTES NOTABLE 1994 NEW TECHNOLOGY SUMMIT
As the Television Academy’s organizational structure strengthened, so did its stature in the entertainment industry. On January 11, 1994, Richard Frank, who was just beginning the second of his three terms as president, staged one of the most notable events in the Television Academy’s history, a daylong conference at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, titled “Information Superhighway Summit.”
Many of the most influential executives in the entertainment business convened to hear keynote speaker Vice President Al Gore discuss the expanding 500-television-channel universe and new technologies such as the internet.
The list of the event’s attendees and panel participants read like a Who’s Who at the time of top television business and government leadership.
Among them were Reed Hundt, then chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft; Michael Eisner, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Co.; Robert Iger, president of the ABC Television Network Group; Robert Johnson, president of Black Entertainment Television; John Malone, president and CEO of Tele-Communcations, Inc.; Brian Roberts, president of Comcast Corp.; Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder, DreamWorks SKG; and Ray Smith, chairman and CEO of Bell Atlantic.
HOLOCAUST STORIES ARCHIVE INSPIRES CREATION OF AAT
The scope of Frank’s influence on the Television Academy extended even further through the efforts of his colleague Dean Valentine, at the time President of Walt Disney and Touchstone Television, and later chairman of the UPN network.
In 1996, inspired by the emotional force of Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, which documents stories of the Holocaust through such storytelling methods as vocal histories, Valentine set out to establish something similar for television. Valentine also drew inspiration from writer-producer Danny Arnold, who before his death in 1995 regaled Valentine with anecdotes from his career, which included such hit series as Bewitched and Barney Miller.
Tom Sarnoff, chairman of the Television Academy Foundation for 17 years, embraced Valentine’s idea, as did David Wolper and Grant Tinker. The result was the Archive of American Television (AAT), established under the aegis of the Television Academy Foundation, which has taped unedited video interviews, ranging in length from three to seven hours, with more than 400 actors, writers, producers and other television pioneers and legends. Nearly 2,000 hours of footage reside with the Television Archive.
DANIELS HEIGHTENS INDUSTRY COMMUNITY OUTREACH
In 1997, production executive Meryl Marshall Daniels took over the reins of the Television Academy from Richard Frank, and pushed the organization even further into activist areas with seminars and outreach efforts devoted to everything from diversity to runaway production.
Under Marshall, the Television Academy received a grant from the Getty Foundation and developed an education program that was distributed in elementary schools to encourage learning through the art and technology of television. The Television Academy also produced “Through the Eyes of Children,” a full-day seminar to further diversity in children’s television.
Additionally, noted Marshall Daniels, “We created a connection with the art community and the artists in the television industry. We had events and programs with [the group] Americans for the Arts.”
The Television Academy also became a staunch opponent of runaway production under Marshall Daniels’ stewardship. Prior to her involvement, “the Academy was careful not to engage in political efforts of any kind,” she said. “They could be divisive. There is a misconception that as a non-profit organization, we were somehow prohibited from being engaged in that process.”
Also under Marshall Daniels, the organizational structure of the Television Academy changed yet again, with the top paying staff position being renamed president, and the top non-paying position referred to as chairman, a delineation that continues today.
In 1996, its 50th year of existence, the Television Academy celebrated the milestone with a number of events, including a series of commemorative events held once a month during the anniversary year, some of which were open to the public, and some exclusively for members.
These were executive produced by Larry Stewart, one of only seven recipients of the Syd Cassyd Award, who had been the last Los Angeles chapter president and first president of the Television Academy following the split with New York.
In addition, HBO produced the special 50 Years of Television: The Television Academy’s Golden Anniversary, during which some 100 TV stars appeared, including several members of the Television Hall of Fame. Later that year, a special Emmy broadcast aired as well.
In 1999, James B. Chabin joined the Television Academy as president after having served as CEO of Promax, the trade association of marketers and promoters. In addition to expanding the Television Academy’s corporate sponsorship efforts to unprecedented levels, Chabin implemented a number of changes at emmy magazine, the Academy’s official publication. Over the ensuing years, emmy earned several Maggie awards from the Western Publishing Association.
21ST CENTURY: NEW TIME, NEW MONEY, MORE MEMBERS
Television Academy founder Syd Cassyd passed away in 2000, and many tributes honored his legacy. A year later, John Cannon died, ending his longtime tenure as the guiding force of New York-based NATAS. To many at the West Coast Academy, Cannon’s passing signaled the prospect of better relations between the rival organizations.
But before that happened, the Television Academy had other challenges to contend with when it ran headlong into one its most formidable challenges ever: September 11, 2001.
“This was five days before the Emmy Awards broadcast,” recalled writer-producer Bryce Zabel, who succeeded Marshall Daniels as Television Academy chairman. “We had to cancel the Emmys twice. I ended up canceling them one week after taking office. It was an unprecedented time to be an Academy chairman.”
In 2002, the Television Academy dramatically elevated its revenues when it renewed its licensing agreements for the Emmy Awards broadcast. Along with chief negotiator Ken Ziffren, the organization struck an eight-year telecast deal with ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox that raised the fee to $5.5 million for the first four years. In years five through eight, the fee rises to $7.5 million per year—a substantial increase from the $3 million paid for the previous primetime broadcast.
The escalation in fees was due in part to a behind-the-scenes scenario similar to that unfolded when Fox purchased the rights in 1987. Pay-cable channel HBO, seeking to compete with the broadcast networks, offered $10 million a year for the telecast—a jump of more than 300 percent. This time, however, no doubt learning its lesson from the Fox incident, the networks interceded and raised their bid to retain the event.
In 2002, two new staff presidents came to run the Los Angeles- and New York-based Academies. When Peter Price, a longtime media executive and former publisher of the New York Post, took over as president of the National Television Academy, he pledged to build stronger ties between the two bodies.
Meanwhile, at the Los Angeles-based Television Academy, Todd P. Leavitt succeeded Chabin as president and chief operating officer. Leavitt was hired after a long stint with Toronto-based Atlantic Communications, as chairman of the Alliance Television Group. Prior to Atlantis, he spent several years at NBC Productions.
Under Leavitt, a major focus of the Television Academy was to increase membership. Totaling just a few hundred in the late 1940s, membership swelled to 1,400 by 1960 and now numbers more than 13,000. Nevertheless, the potential for additional growth is vast.
Leavitt also pursued better international deals for broadcast of the Emmy Awards. “We doubled our license fees,” he said, “and added two major territories, England and Germany.”
TELEVISION ACADEMY FOUNDATION INITIATIVES BROADEN
The Television Academy Foundation also started a college course, “Living Television,” that would provide students with a unique hands-on learning experience as part of a documentary film production.
The pilot course was taught by noted documentarian David Houghland. The course built on the Foundation’s educational efforts. For more than 10 years, the Princeton Review has saluted the Television Academy’s college internship program, a summer program where students come to learn their craft from industry professionals, as the country’s best.
Among more recent educational programs affiliated with the Television Academy Foundation are the Fred Rogers Scholarship, a financial award underwritten by Ernst & Young for the Academy and given to an outstanding undergraduate or graduate student specializing in children’s programming, and Journeys Below the Line, an educational DVD curriculum devoted to a variety of craft areas.
In 2005, Steve Mosko, Sony Pictures Television President, was named chairman of the Foundation, succeeding Tom Sarnoff who remains Chairman Emeritus. The Foundation also named an executive director, Terri Clark, to oversee all activities of the Educational Programs & Services Department and the Archive of American Television. At the time, 75 of the Archive’s interviews were made available to students, journalists, scholars and TV fans online at Google.com.
ASKIN ERA EYES INCREASED RUNAWAY PRODUCTION, CONTINUES MEMBERSHIP DEVELOPMENT FOCUS
Meanwhile, Tribune Entertainment president and CEO Dick Askin, who in October 2003 followed Zabel as chairman of the Television Academy, turned a focus on runaway production. “It’s a topic that has significant emotional payoff for our membership,” said Askin,
In January 2004, prompted by members of their respective Academies, Askin and Dennis Swanson, chairman of the New York-based National Television Academy, announced an agreement to collaborate on a number of issues, including cessation of the National Television Academy’s plans to produce a prime-time Latin Emmys.
Under the terms of the accord, the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences ceased to be a division of the National Television Academy and instead came under the oversight of the Television Academy. Henceforth, all international program awards will be conducted under the auspices of the Television Academy.
As for the Television Academy itself, Askin, like Leavitt (who was succeeded in early 2006 by longtime television executive Alan Perris, who assumed the title of COO), noted that the organization's main efforts are devoted to protecting and reinforcing the Academy's brand. This commitment is rooted in the heart of the Television Academy since it was merely an idea in the mind of Syd Cassyd back in the 1940s—its members.
“Part of expanding the brand is expanding its relevance to the membership,” said Askin. “There has been a gradual disconnect with younger potential members. The organization has to be much more aggressive in appealing to them, and really be symbolic of attaining excellence in this business.”
“We want to target people in the trenches—both above and below the line, the best and the brightest—those who have distinguished themselves at an early age,” added Askin. “We are focusing on the up-and-coming in the business—the future leaders for specific memberships. In the past, they have been ignored.”
Under Askin’s leadership, a major priority has been to increase service and usefulness to the existing membership. With this goal squarely in mind, the Television Academy convened a committee to identify ways to enhance value for its members.
For instance, the Television Academy’s Activities Committee has established a professional development subcommittee to produce practical seminars and programs for professionals seeking to change careers. With an increasing number of members freelancing, Askin said a specific television-oriented internet job site had also become a priority.
“As the business continues to consolidate, career guidance becomes more and more important,” he said. “People are re-training themselves. We are trying to address, on a real hands-on basis, ways of giving the members a resource they don’t have now to learn how to do their jobs better—or, at least, how to market themselves better.
“The real key,” Askin concluded, “is to give even more value to Television Academy members in the future than there is now.”
PRODUCTION DESIGNER SHAFFNER SUCCEEDS ASKIN IN 2008
In winter 2007, amidst an industry-stifling Writers Guild of America strike and a bubbling U. S. presidential election race, the Board of Governors elected award-winning production designer John Shaffner to replace outgoing two-term chair Askin.
The former vice chair and second vice chair entered his tenure overseeing not only the execution of our milestone 60th Primetime Emmy Awards season, but also the launch of the very separate and distinct Television Academy Honors.
The Television Academy Honors was born of the Television Cares committee's desire to expand upon its mission. Co-chairs Shaffner and Lynn Roth, discussed the creation of an annual event that would recognize what Shaffner coined “television with a conscience,” programming that presents issues of concern to our society in a compelling, emotional and insightful way.
Shaffner and Roth's endeavor began to take shape following a 2007 conversation with a longtime friend of the Television Academy, public relations executive Dick Lippin, who had just lost his beloved wife, Ronnie, to breast cancer. With the encouragement of then Academy chairman, Dick Askin, they shared ideas about organizing an event to honor Ronnie Lippin’s memory and raise awareness about breast cancer.
Shaffner and Roth were inspired to broaden the focus of the proposed event, which would allow them to celebrate Ronnie, who was devoted to humanitarian causes, while realizing their original goal — to address a number of issues that have had a profound impact on society.
“That was important,” says Roth. “We wanted to identify productions that not only entertain or educate, but that have the potential to change the way people think, or to motivate them to affect change in their own lives or the lives of others.”
Again, the Television Academy Honors is not a new category of the Primetime Emmy® Awards, but a separate and distinct honor from Emmy’s recognition of television excellence. The necessity of a meaningful social component is the prevailing criteria for selection.
The inaugural the Television Academy Honors celebration was held May 1, 2008, in Beverly Hills.
Another inaugural event occurred with the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards, held on September 21, 2008, which marked the first Emmys at the awards' new home, NOKIA Theatre LA LIVE in downtown Los Angeles.
TRANSITION AT THE FOUNDATION
2008 also marked a changing of the guard at theTelevision Academy Foundation, when longtime NBC executive Jerry Petry succeeded Steve Mosko as chairman.
Two years later, in 2010, Norma Provencio Pichardo succeeded Terri Clark as the Foundation's executive director.
Under Provencio Pichardo, the Foundation built upon the success of its annual Celebrity Golf Classic and launched the TV Summit, a day-long event with guest speakers and panels addressing both the state of the industry and its future.
During Petry and Provencio Pichardo's tenure, the Foundation also added new members to its board: Madelinne Di Nonno, executive director, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media; television executive, Carolina Lightcap, Marc Graboff, president, CKx, Inc; and Craig Hunegs, executive vice president, Warner Bros. Television Group.
WARNER BROS. TELEVISION PRESIDENT ROSENBLUM SUCCEEDS SHAFFNER
In winter 2011, the Board of Governors elected Bruce Rosenblum, president of the Warner Bros. Television Group, to succeed Shaffner, who served two terms as Television Academy chairman and CEO.
The 2012 Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be held September 15, 2012.
The 64th Primetime Emmys will be held September 23, 2012.