Reducing a half-hour or hour-long TV series to a short clip might not offer the best representation of a show's overall quality. But as the number of people watching TV online in bite-size chunks grows, so, too, do such clips' potential to affect Emmy results—even if their impact so far has been negligible at best.
A search for TV clips online shows that the format is by far more popular for comedies than dramas. Among the most popular clips: those from sketch comedy mainstay Saturday Night Live; Fox animated hits The Simpsons and Family Guy; and Comedy Central's The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.
Daily Show won the variety, music or comedy series Emmy three of the last four years. Erik Flannigan, executive VP of digital media for Comedy Central, says there's no way to say if the ubiquity of the show had a direct impact on its Emmy success, but it does reflect the show's popularity. “It's always tough to draw direct correlations between things, but I do think it's probably fair to speculate that one of the reasons why those shows enjoy their place in the Zeitgeist is that the content does travel far and wide on the Internet,” he says.
With so many Daily Show clips being shown on so many sites, the series can't help but reach potential Emmy voters who otherwise might not see the best the show has to offer.
Comedy fiction also travels well online, with Flannigan citing the recent spread of South Park clips from popular episodes that skewered the Jonas Brothers and Kanye West. South Park has won all three of its Emmys in outstanding animated program categories in the past four years.
Clips from NBC's 30 Rock also are popular on various sites; the show took home best comedy series last year.
The quality of drama series so far seems tougher to convey through short clips, with most networks preferring to post entire episodes when they know Emmy voters are watching.
“My philosophy is, to be a responsible voter, you need to watch a majority of episodes [of a show],” says Richard Licata, executive VP of corporate communications for Showtime and the architect of its Emmy campaigns.
Regardless of how important such clips may seem in terms of influencing the Emmy race this year, their impact is expected to grow in future races. Licata says making use of the online environment in any way possible to reach voters is here to stay: “It's just another avenue for the 14,000 members of the Academy to view our product.”