November or January? The Television Academy and Fox have been locked in a debate over when to air this year’s 75th annual Emmy Awards in the likely event that they’ll have to postpone the ceremony. The Academy would like to shift the show to November (something it also did in 2001), while Fox appears set on a January airdate.
When the Television Academy announces this year’s Emmy Awards nominations on Wednesday, they’ll downplay — but still reference — show’s September 18 airdate.
Nonetheless, almost everyone involved inside both the network and org know that it’s extremely unlikely that date will hold much longer.
According to insiders, the Academy and Fox are waiting to see for sure if SAG-AFTRA goes on strike this week, joining the WGA in essentially putting all major Hollywood events to a halt. After that, a decision is expected to be finalized by the end of July on when and how to hold this year’s Emmys.
Cancelling the show is not an option, particularly given the Emmys’ landmark 75th anniversary. Instead, both the Academy and Fox have agreed that a postponement makes more sense — but the two sides differ on when they think the show should now take place. The Academy’s preferred November date reps a two-month shift that would keep the ceremony in the fall and make it the first major awards show to take place after (hopefully) the strikes have been settled and Hollywood is back to work.
It’s ultimately Fox’s call, however, as they’re this year’s broadcast partner as part of the four-network “wheel deal.” And Fox seems pretty committed to a January date, arguing that its November calendar is already packed with NFL football and other events. A January date would likely put it on Jan. 21, 2024, however, as the Golden Globes is scheduled for Jan. 7 and the Critics Choice Awards are on Jan. 14.
This all assumes the Emmys would remain on a Sunday — but as many have noted, the show could really take place on any day of the week (and has, in the past). And keep in mind nothing is set in stone yet, which means all options are still on the table. (Including the possibility that the strike or strikes are resolved and that September 18 date can be saved.)
As Variety has previously written, there’s a precedence in moving the Emmys to November: In 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks pushed the Emmy date, initial military action in Afghanistan pushed the telecast again, into November. At that point, a subdued Emmy telecast took place in a smaller venue (the now-demolished Schubert Theatre in Century City).
Waiting until January, on the other hand, risks shoving a stale Emmy race — with an eligibility window that had ended six months prior — in the midst of a more updated TV competition at the Globes, Critics Choice and SAG Awards. The Emmys would also likely be overshadowed by those film season awards shows (not to mention the NFL playoffs).
On the other hand, it would give Fox a chance to promote its midseason shows, and the Emmys might benefit from the promo attention it would get during those aforementioned NFL playoff games. It would also return the Emmys back to where it all began: The first three Emmy ceremonies (in 1949, 1950 and 1951) all took place in January. The kudocast then started creeping into spring, and actually didn’t become a permanent September event until 1977.
Besides the Primetime Emmys, there’s also the question of when the Creative Arts Emmy Awards (currently scheduled for Sept. 9 and 10) would take place. And a move would also impact the schedule for Jesse Collins Entertainment, which is producing this year’s Emmys. (An Emmys move to January would make it difficult for the busy company to produce any of the winter awards season shows, for example).
Meanwhile, as the Primetime Emmys mull a move, don’t forget that the Daytime Emmys also has to figure out when and where it will air on CBS, having been postponed from its original June date.
As an Primetime Emmy move currently seems likely, the TV Academy will also have to determine whether or not to shift the Phase 2 voting window, scheduled for Aug. 17-28, to later. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Phase 2 voting dates were pushed back, with Phase 1 voting moved to July; this time, it’s unclear how or when campaigning could resume — or if it will have to take place without talent participation.
Insiders expect the Academy to keep the Phase 2 calendar as is, however, rather than risk complaints that a move might give an unfair advantage to certain contenders over others. There’s also the argument, made by some, that Phase 2 campaigning has never been as robust as Phase 1 (when FYC events and pop-up installations are common), and could continue without talent participation.
Should that be the case, and voting continues in August as planned, the TV Academy would then simply sit on the results until the Emmy telecast eventually takes place. More, obviously, to come as the news moves fast and pivots are inevitable during these unprecedented times.
Variety's Michael Schneider contributed to this post.