The 72nd Primetime Emmy's went virtual for the first time this year. Senior Correspondent at Variety Elizabeth Wagmeister joins The Final Round to recap the night's winners and losers, and what this means for the industry moving forward.
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SEANA SMITH: Welcome back to "The Final Round." The 2020 Emmy Awards show was a historic broadcast, the first to pull off a virtual awards show. Here with more on this, I want to bring in Elizabeth Wagmeister. She's senior correspondent at "Variety." And Elizabeth, great to have you back on the show. Last night I watched some of it. Jimmy Kimmel hosting from the Staples Center, nominees we had tuning in from around the world. There were a lot of questions going into it, just about whether or not it was going to be successful, whether or not it was going to look good. What did you think of it?
ELIZABETH WAGMEISER: So, I actually enjoyed it. I think that during this time, obviously, nothing is normal. And to pull up any production, certainly one of this scope, I think is a win. And that can sound cheesy, but this industry employs so many people, that just to be able to put on the Emmys, I think really is a big feat. Now if you ask viewers, I don't think that they thought the same, because the numbers are in and ratings were down. Only 6.1 million people tuned in overnight. That's down 12% from last year. And last year it was down over 30% from the year prior.
So this is really a trend that we started seeing long before the pandemic, that viewers just aren't really that interested in watching awards shows anymore. It seems that every single year, not just the Emmys, but the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Grammys, numbers do go down. But this is a pretty steep decline. And who knows? Is it because people just aren't thinking of prioritizing entertainment when there's so much more going on in the world? Or maybe it's just continuing with that trend of viewers caring a bit less about watching celebrities get awards.
ANDY SERWER: Hey, Elizabeth, I want to ask about HBO, because a lot of people said they're over, they're dead, they're gone, that's yesterday's network. HBO, of course, part of Warner, which is part of AT&T, ticker is T. But they did pretty well, right? So they had "Watchmen," they had "Succession." I mean, does HBO still have its mojo or not?
ELIZABETH WAGMEISER: HBO absolutely still has its mojo after last night. So HBO came out on top. They beat Netflix, they beat every other single cable stream or network. They actually came out with 30 wins, when you combine the Primetime Emmy awards and the Creative Arts Emmys awards, which were rolling out over the week.
Now Netflix got 21 wins. They came in second place. But remember, Netflix had a whopping 160 nominations going into the Emmys. HBO, in contrast, had 107. But you bring up a great point, because a lot of people are saying after "Game of Thrones," after "Veep," is HBO dead? Well, that was last year's news at the Emmys for those two shows, and they proved that this year they clearly, they've still got it.
Between "Succession" and "Watchmen" and then Zendaya won for "Euphoria." That was a huge surprise that critics and her 80 million fans on Instagram really applauded. So HBO I think is definitely taking a huge victory lap today, and I don't think there's anything to be concerned about as far as the programming goes at the very least.
SEANA SMITH: Well, Elizabeth, that's interesting. Then do you think that maybe we're making too much about the amount of content that Netflix has then? Because when you compare the amount of content that Netflix has, comparing that to HBO, I mean, it's a huge difference. So maybe if you just focus on fewer projects, it's not as big as a worry as we had been making it out to be for HBO then going forward,
ELIZABETH WAGMEISER: I think that's a great point. And HBO, along with other cable networks, like Showtime and FX, they've always really prided themselves on having premium content, which means less content certainly compared to Netflix. Now also, Netflix has a lot more money to spend. They spend billions and billions of dollars on content every single year. HBO just doesn't have that type of money.
But if you look historically, HBO has always been an awards favorite and awards darling. Their shows, looking back to "Sopranos," "Sex and the City," then "Game of Thrones," it seems that every single time that people are worried that this huge show went off the air on HBO, they seem to make a comeback. They know what they're doing.
And I think you do bring up a really valid point, which is that Netflix has so much content, that oftentimes, people complain about it getting lost. They haven't even heard of many of the shows or films on Netflix. You really just hear about these watercooler shows that are very buzzy. That being said, there's also so much content everywhere, and there's only a few shows nominated. So to even be nominated is tough, and then to win, it's really kind of a crapshoot at this point, because there are over I think 700 shows on television. It's crazy.
MYLES UDLAND: Well, and Elizabeth, I guess to that point, you could sort of run it through the loop of like, well, there's 700 other shows, so to win makes it even more special. But you noted at the top that it doesn't really seem viewers care about the Emmys anymore or about awards. So is the volume of content actually like lowering the meaningfulness or whatever of these awards because everyone's like, oh, I like that and it's fine, I actually don't need to care at all if it wins the award, because it's one of 700 choices, not one of 40?
ELIZABETH WAGMEISER: That's absolutely right. You know who cares about the awards, is the marketing teams at all of these networks. They are all now editing all of their promotional material saying, the Emmy-winning show. Now does that lure in viewers? Probably. Maybe, maybe not. But what all these companies really should be caring about, and really do care about more so than the awards, which yes, brings the cachet and brings, kind of gives you an edge over the shows that didn't win Emmys, what they are all caring about right now is their streaming strategy.
We're talking about HBO beating Netflix last night at the Emmys, but Netflix has 193 million subscribers globally and HBO Max, which yes, is a much newer service, has I believe around 36 million viewers. That's what AT&T reported earlier this summer. Than you of course, look at Disney with Disney Plus, has 60 million. So that's really the bread and butter and the future of all of these companies. They all need a streaming service. And despite how good or bad Netflix did last night, they're all very envious of Netflix's strategy and their numbers.
RICK NEWMAN: Guys, my favorite thing about this year's Emmys is that today, everybody on TV is saying "Schitt's Creek." And that's actually part of the joke intended by the great Eugene Levy and his son and the team there. My observation here is, I didn't watch the Emmys last night, but I sure looked at the results. And it reminded me, go back and finish "Schitt's Creek." And I think a lot of people are going to do that, which I think gets to your point about, it's great for the marketing department.
ELIZABETH WAGMEISER: Absolutely. And I love that you just said that everybody is saying "Schitt's Creek," because here, we're streaming, we're digital, I think we can say whatever we want, I hope. But this morning, I was doing a local news appearance, and they actually had to put "Schitt's Creek" in the chyron because if not, saying that word is an FCC violation. So it is part of Eugene Levy's genius and the comedy.
But yeah, that show, I mean, it completely swept the Emmys last night. They swept the entire comedy category, winning all the major acting awards and writing and directing. It's a really big deal. Kind of the little show that could. Critics have loved this show from the beginning. But viewers really started to find it when it was acquired by Netflix. It's that Netflix boost. So this is great for Pop TV and definitely during a time of turmoil at Viacom CBS. But also, you can make the argument that Netflix can share a bit of this joy, because they really put the show on the map, just in terms of more eyeballs and more people seeing the show.
RICK NEWMAN: It is a masterwork, "Schitt's Creek."
ELIZABETH WAGMEISER: I love it, it's one of my favorite shows.
SEANA SMITH: Elizabeth, real quick, we only have about a minute here. But do you think we're going to see maybe the Oscars also trying to dabble in this and do what the Emmys did last night and have this virtual award show in a couple months?
ELIZABETH WAGMEISER: I think so. So the Oscars were originally scheduled for February. They were delayed to April. The big differences though, between TV and film, it's not so much the actual production of the broadcast, it's the content. TV, a lot of the content was already in the camp. With film, you don't have anything to nominate. None of these films have shot.
Certainly none of them have been in theaters. Theaters are closed around the country, certainly in the larger markets, like LA and New York. So that's the big problem right now, is that there's really nothing to nominate. So will it be delayed again? Who knows. We'll see. But as long as everybody is quarantined and social distancing, I think we can bet on having a hybrid virtual show, kind of like we saw last night.
SEANA SMITH: All right. Elizabeth Wagmeister, always great to have you on the show. Senior correspondent at "Variety." We'll talk to you soon.