How Does the Emmy Nominating and Voting Process Work?

Dan Clarendon
Emmy Nominating Voting Process Julia Louis-Dreyfus
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We all tune in every September to watch the Television Academy honor the best and the brightest of the past year’s TV. But first there are the nominations, announced on July 28. How much do you know about the Primetime Emmy Awards’ voting process?

Though there’s no electoral college, no gerrymandering, and no superdelegates, the process can still seem complicated if you’re on the outside looking in!

Jimmy Kimmel to Host 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy AwardsSee Also

Jimmy Kimmel to Host 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

The late night host will also executive produce the ceremony.

Fear not. For all of us non-showbiz folk, we’re breaking down the road to the Emmys, step by step.

1. Submissions

Before people or shows can be nominated for an Emmy, they have to be submitted for consideration. Last year, the Television Academy received more than 9,100 entries for 124 categories, and this year, the organization announced that submissions increased 15 percent year-over-year.

To be eligible for a Primetime Emmy Award, a performance or program had to have aired sometime between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., between June 1 of the previous year and May 31 of the year of the ceremony. Those performances and programs had to have been broadcast in at least 50 percent of the potential U.S. television market or made available on a public website.

And no, potential Emmy nominees don’t wait for someone else to recognize their talent. “If you’re eligible, you can (and should!) submit yourself for consideration,” the Television Academy says. “Don’t be shy!”

2. Nominations-round voting

After the submission process, every one of the Academy’s 25,000-plus members (except those who are inactive) casts votes in the program categories—Outstanding Drama Series, Comedy Series, Limited Series, etc.—but specific peer groups vote in the other categories—e.g. in the acting categories, the directing and writing categories. Then, those nomination ballots are tallied and hand-checked by Ernst & Young.

3. Nomination selection

Ahead of this year’s ceremony, the Television Academy announced that the comedy and drama series categories would both feature eight nominees apiece, up from seven nominees in years past.

And with this year’s other rule changes, the other categories stand a good chance of featuring more nominees, as well. Here’s the breakdown of how the number of submissions determines the number of nominees in each category:

  • 1 to 19 submissions: 0 to 4 nominations, based on a sliding scale
  • 20 to 80 submissions: 5 nominations
  • 81 to 160 submissions: 6 nominations
  • 161 to 240 submissions: 7 nominations
  • 241 or more submissions: 8 nominations
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4. Final-round voting

After the nominations are announced in July, the nominees in the individual categories choose their best work of the season, and the producers of the nominated programs choose their best episodes of the season—six episodes for comedies and dramas; two for children’s programming, one for animated, variety, documentary, and reality series; and the complete work for limited series.

Then, voters screen the submitted content—the Academy switched from DVD screeners to online screeners in 2015—and cast their votes by the August deadline. Again, all voters can vote in the program categories, but other categories are limited by peer group, and again, the ballots are tallied and hand-checked by Ernst & Young.

5. Awards

Envelopes, please! The winners are printed and sealed in envelopes, and those envelopes are packed into secure briefcases. Then, Ernst & Young accountants handcuff themselves to the briefcases and take them to Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater—or wherever the ceremony will take place this year, amid the pandemic!

72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, Sunday, September 20, 8/7c, ABC