An overview of the Primetime and Creative Arts Emmys

Ever wonder where, when or how the Emmys started, or perhaps why they’re broken into Primetime and Creative Arts awards categories? There’s a rich history to dig into, with a lot detailed in this quick guide.




Courtesy of ATAS/ABC



The presentation of the 2020 Creative Arts Emmys started early last week and ran into the weekend, culminating in Saturday evening’s virtual ceremony that was televised on FXX. A hundred awards have been doled out to date as part of this year’s annual offerings, setting up Sunday’s virtual 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony that’ll air on ABC at 7 p.m. CDT with host Jimmy Kimmel.

Presented by the North Hollywood-based Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS), which is commonly known as the Television Academy, Primetime Emmy ceremonies are typically held on Sundays in mid-September each year to help kick off the fall television season. The Creative Arts ceremony, meanwhile, usually takes place over a couple-day period leading up to the primetime showcase.

The four major TV networks — ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX — take turns broadcasting the primetime show on a four-year rotation. In years when it’s NBC’s turn to air the Primetime Emmys, the event is typically held in August so that the ceremony won’t conflict with the network’s Sunday Night Football on NBC commitments.

The Television Academy, established in 1946 by Syd Cassyd with five charter members, was formed to assist industry professionals develop the art and science of television, according to the Emmy website. Today the Television Academy boasts more than 22,400 voting members who fill out nomination-round ballots, which are checked by London-based accounting firm Ernst & Young, before nominees are announced to the public.

Following the unveiling of nominees to the general public, voters complete final-round ballots with a cut-off deadline, which was Aug. 31 this year. Winners are known only to Ernst & Young accountants until they’re revealed as part of the awards show.

The first Emmys were presented at the Hollywood Athletic Club in Los Angeles in 1949, with tickets costing $5 to attend. This year’s primetime ceremony was meant to be broadcast from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles but due to the COVID-19 pandemic it’s been morphed into a virtual presentation. Nominees for their respective categories were announced in late July, with HBO series “Watchmen” leading the way with 11 nominations.

The Emmy statue was designed by TV engineer and film editor Louis McManus. It features a woman with wings, representing the muse of art, holding up an atom with electrons inside, which symbolize the science and technology of television. Statuettes are molded and then coated in copper, nickel, silver and gold. Primetime Emmys, the largest in size, weigh six pounds, 12 ounces, and take approximately five and a half hours to make.

The name Emmy is a play on the word Immy, the nickname for image orthicon tubes used in TVs. The tubes were nicknamed Ikes early on, but that term was confusing as it was also the nickname for World War II hero General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became President of the United States in 1953.

According to the Television Academy, more than 10,000 entries were received for award consideration in 123 categories for 2020. The process of watching nominated works via DVD mailers was eliminated this year, meaning all eligible content was viewed through secure online platforms.

The Creative Arts Emmys, meanwhile, are meant to honor those who typically work below the line, recognizing the efforts and achievements of production designers, set decorators, costume designers, sound editors, and more. The Creative Arts categories also include awards for animated programming, guest actors and even commercial spots.

The Primetime and Creative arts Emmys are not to be confused with the Daytime Emmys, which were first awarded in 1974. The Daytime Emmys are usually held each spring and are put on by the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), which was founded in 1955. There’s also the Sports Emmys, News and Documentary Emmys, and Technology and Engineering Emmys.

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