How the Daytime Emmys overcame the 2018 voting scandal
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has made major changes to leadership and the way it picks winners.
Two days after Adam Sharp became the interim CEO of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2018, scandal broke out over the way the Daytime Emmys selected their winners. Executives from General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful, and The Young and the Restless threatened to boycott the annual competition if changes weren't made to the process, after NATAS rescinded Patrika Darbo's Emmy for guest-starring on Amazon's The Bay. Turns out there were submission errors in her category (and others) and Darbo — a vet of soaps like The Bold and the Beautiful — reportedly said that NATAS knew there was a problem, but didn't deal with it until after the show.
"Welcome to the new job!" Sharp jokingly tells EW about how he felt after receiving the letter of their threats. "There was a great deal of concern and suspicion, so that's why we commissioned an outside law firm to conduct an investigation. From the outset, we had a few ground rules. Number one, they were tasked to investigate every one of the specific concerns raised by the community regarding that year's competition and the Patrika matter. Number two, they were not to stop there. They were supposed to look at our competition as a whole and really just get to the big, broader question of whether we are living up to our broadest ideals of running a fair, incredible competition. Because if you don't have that trust in the credibility of the competition, all we are is a paperweight company. The value of what we do is the trust in the process, not in the 13 pounds of metal we're handing out."
The hard work to rebuild the institution and its credibility looks to be paying off. The folks at NATAS — who will announce the Daytime Emmy nominations on May 25 — have seen a record number of submissions this year in the documentary, sports, and daytime news categories, as well as significant growth in children's animation. In addition to a whole new set of leaders overseeing the process, the national awards committee now features first-time members from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences — NATAS' West Coast counterpart that runs the Primetime Emmys. Most importantly, changes were made to the nominee process that were spurned, in part, by a University of Virginia statistician who reviewed five years of anonymous judging data.
"Are we generating a fair result on things like tiebreaking or catching bad behavior by a judge who shows obvious gamesmanship by giving a great score to one entry and bad scores to all the rest? How do you detect that?" asks Sharp. "There are a variety of patterns of 'gaming' that can trigger our algorithm. That scenario is the most simplistic of examples. But in any of these cases, the accountant presents evidence of the potential irregularity to the National Awards Committee — without identifying the judge or who/what they voted for. The Committee then decides whether to disqualify the ballot. The Committee has no knowledge of what entrant(s) are affected positively or negatively by the ballot."
He adds, "We've established standards that generate fewer ties, fewer irregularities, more consistent data. We've established standards for a minimum viability for a nomination. Under our old system, if you were one of the top five scorers, you were nominated even if you had a really low score. Under the new model, you won't be nominated if you have a low score. So, you will see that some of the categories will have fewer nominees than before."
However, some things won't change about the Daytime Emmys, like the way it reviews submissions and picks nominees. Unlike the primetime version, daytime nominees are selected by panels that range in size from 10 to 50 or more industry veterans. Sharp says the process ensures that anyone can get a fair shake at a nomination because panel members are required to watch every submission. (For the Primetime Emmys, the nomination process is essentially a popularity contest because ATAS members are asked to select people and shows without having to review their work.)
"(Panelists) don't rank. They score each entry on its individual merit," explains Sharp. "We think that, combined with the general anonymity of these panels, is why you don't see public campaigning. Some have criticized it. There are those who advocate for a wide community vote. But we think a jury of peers delivers a result that really helps elevate those voices."
The winners are the ones who earn the highest score. That means when the Daytime Emmy nominations are announced next week, the accountants already know the winners. That's why you don't see For Your Consideration ads for the likes The Bold and the Beautiful and The View.
Sharp also admits that lessons were learned by the scandal that has recently rocked the Hollywood Foreign Press Association: NATAS has taken a hard look at the diversity of its panels and nominees. "One of our most successful categories in terms of the diversity of entries is in our sports reporter category," says Sharp. "Four out of five nominees for sports reporter are women. More women were nominated in on-camera talent categories than ever before."
And the biggest accomplishment for the Daytime Emmys? Scoring that two-year broadcast deal with CBS. In recent years, the show streamed online or via social media because broadcast networks decided no one cared about the competition anymore.
"We think this is a rebirth for the Daytime Emmy telecast," says Sharp proudly. "It would have been very easy for the Academy to say, okay, well when there's no longer a network paying the bills, we're closing up shop. Instead, the Academy self-funded the ceremony for all those years. Now that the ceremony is back on television, I think the community recognizes that the Academy stood by them and is ready to celebrate with us."
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