The Primetime Emmy Awards take place next week, but for the first time in nearly 40 years, the Emmys won’t air on Sunday night TV. Instead, Emmy fans will have to wait until Monday to get their annual Emmy celebrity fix.
The Emmys rotate from network to network, and this year it’s NBC’s turn. So why is NBC eschewing Sunday? Because Sunday is the most watched night of the week, with more than 124 million viewers, and that means lots of competition for the Emmys. Moreover, some some of the hottest shows on television air on Sunday nights: Downton Abbey, True Detective, Game of Thrones, Girls.
Last year CBS made the canny move of airing the Emmys right after a football game. The NFL audience mostly stuck around, which netted the Emmys its biggest audience in years. You might think NBC would use the same tactic. It owns Sunday Night Football, after all, but media analyst Jack Myers says the competition is just too intense. First, there are all of those hit shows to contend with (True Blood’s season finale is on Sunday). And then there’s the other awards show that will be airing Sunday night – The MTV Video Music Awards are that night, and last year we had the twerking with Miley Cyrus,” says Myers. “So there’s a lot of interest this year in the program, and it’s that 18-34 audience.”
NBC doesn’t want to lose that key demographic to twerk-gate, so it’s rolling the weekday dice.
“It’s actually pretty interesting to see this kind of experimentation happening on a big scale,” says Rick Ducey, Managing Director at BIA/Kelsey, a media research firm. “There’s a lot of economics at stake here.”
Advertisers often pay as much as 50 percent more for ads around live events like the Emmys. If NBC’s Monday night Emmys pulls in a big audience, Ducey says we’ll likely see more special event TV creeping out over the week.
But that’s a big “if.”
“The difficulty is, of course, corralling everybody in the way you can on a Sunday for something like the Oscars or the Superbowl, where they’ll give up seven or eight hours quite happily,” says Toby Miller, a professor emeritus of media and cultural studies at the University of California-Riverside. He says those leisure hours are key for the tweeting and Facebook posting people do around awards shows – and the ad possibilities that come with that.