Countdown for Daytime Voters

Emmy Awards will be handed out a month from now

The voting period for the 33rd Annual Daytime Emmys Awards is ticking down as the organizers continue their aggressive push to bring relevancy—and ratings—back to the awards that honor soap operas, game and talk shows, children's shows, and other daytime programming.

The deadline for voting for the creative-arts ballots (for awards in such areas as design and makeup but also editing, directing, and many children's and games categories) is March 31. The deadline for the other show awards—the ones that determine the outstanding soap opera, talk show and starring performances—is April 7. So the big last-minute voting push is on.

Separately, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) for the first time this year is giving an award for a program airing on non-traditional platforms, such as MP3 players and cellphones. A panel of judges is selecting the final nominees from about 75 entries for the award referred to by the Academy as the iPod Emmy. Final nominees will be selected in about a week and will be announced in early April.

“Our industry is transforming in the digital age and embracing original programming that is being produced for all screens, not just the box in the living room,” says NATAS President Peter Price. “We are evolving along with our industry and our audience.”

The iPod Emmy will be presented at the Creative Arts Daytime Emmy Awards in New York City on April 22. The winner, while not limited to daytime programming, will also be mentioned in a video clip on the Daytime Emmy Awards, which will air in prime time on ABC April 28.

With ratings for daytime television and the Daytime Emmys faltering the past several years, NATAS and ABC have been ramping up the award show's profile. Last year's show on CBS was watched by only 7.6 million viewers, its smallest prime time audience ever.

It's not like the show is lacking for star power. Nominees for Daytime Emmys' outstanding talk show are The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dr. Phil, The View and Live With Regis and Kelly. Best–game-show nominees include Jeopardy! and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. (Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who has played Big Bird on Sesame Street since the show began in 1969, will be given his Lifetime Achievement Award at the earlier awards show, but videotape of it will be seen on the prime time telecast a week later. )

Best drama nominees are ABC's General Hospital and CBS' As the World Turns, Guiding Light and The Young and the Restless, which has the most nominations at 18.

CBS leads all networks with 59 Daytime Emmy nominations. Syndicators aren't far behind with 46. PBS boasts 31. Among cable networks, Discovery Kids and Food Network each tie for the lead with seven.

“It means a great deal to us. It's probably the glitziest night that daytime television gets to experience,” says Kay Alden, head writer on Y&R. “It's gratifying to be recognized by our fans, who keep us alive, and by our peers. So it's a tremendous psychological boost.”

Price says NATAS is trying to tap into viewers beyond those who tune in during the day, and who can now keep up with soaps via TiVo or the cable network Soapnet. As mobile video expands, no doubt, soap-opera fans will get their fix that way. “Technology is transforming what used to be the bifurcated daypart experience into a program experience,” Price says.

Still, the most noticeable attempt to raise the show's profile is the ceremony's move to Los Angeles; this is the first time it will be held outside of New York City.

“The move to L.A. was a conscious effort to attract some new attention but also to get closer to the talent, to embrace the 60% of our members in the daytime business who live and work in L.A.,” says Price. “We're also holding the first-ever Emmy event at the Kodak Theatre to give it more gloss and glamour. And we're holding a party at the Roosevelt Hotel that will be hosted by Soapnet.”

NATAS and ABC have also been heavily promoting the show, and a promotional road show is traveling from New York to Los Angeles, with stops at malls throughout the country.

ABC nabbed Tom Bergeron to host the show. He is also host of the network's high-rated reality show, Dancing With the Stars. Kelly Monaco, a soap star who appeared on the first version of Dancing, will co-host. The results, ABC and NATAS hopes, will be a ratings revival.