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Marketplace Tech

Sunday is the night to be for an Emmy nod

Adriene Hill Sep 21, 2012
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The Emmys are Sunday, and there’s a whole lot of guessing going on about who will win what.

We here at Marketplace don’t have any insider information to help you make better bets with your friends (sorry). But there are a few things we know for sure.

Number one: the major networks aren’t going to win in the drama category (because they don’t have any shows nominated).

Number two: the winning drama will be a Sunday night show (because all the nominees are).

So how did cable and PBS snatch up all the Emmy drama nominations? “The short answer is because they are better,” says University of Michigan professor Amanda Lotz. “The real question is, why are they better?”

There are a lot of reasons out there. Shorter seasons. Different economic incentives. And, says Lotz, the networks play it safe. They want a show that me and my mom and my teenage neighbor are all going to watch. Cable, on the other hand, isn’t trying to win that contest.

Take AMC’s Breaking Bad, one of this year’s Emmy nominees, about a teacher turned meth king. In a season preview, anti-hero Walter White says himself that “there’s no denying the popularity of our product; there’s a market to be filled.”

And not wanting to pick a fight with Mr. White (which can be a very dangerous proposition) — but there is at least some denying that popularity. The season finale of Breaking Bad had about one-sixth the viewers of Sunday Night Football.

“There are probably a lot of people who willingly turn away from that show,” Lotz says. “They find the violence offensive or the concept disturbing. And it’s not trying to be a show for those people. If that’s not what you want, then it’s OK for you not to watch it.”

You’ll certainly have a lot of other choices. From Mad Men to Downton Abbey, all of the nominated dramas are Sunday night shows. Why? “Sunday is traditionally the night with the highest viewing levels,” says Variety TV critic Brian Lowry.

But with DVRs and On Demand and reruns, that time slot is mattering less and less. “HBO and Showtime have data that shows that even with their most popular shows about a third of their viewing is done on Sunday night,” Lowry says.

Football doesn’t keep quite as well.

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