Does Winning an Emmy Award Help (or Hurt) a TV Show? We Investigate
The Emmy Awards is unequivocally the year’s most important night for television. Yet what effect does an Emmy actually have on a television actor or series when the night is over? Can an award save a show from being canceled, or launch an actor into super-stardom?
Well, it’s complicated.
As Fortune pointed out in a 2015 article on the monetary impact of an Emmy, it’s no Oscar. (Between 1990 and 2009, movies that won an Oscar for Best Picture saw a $14 million average increase in box office sales.)
“TV deals usually span several years,” Don Kaplan wrote in the New York Daily News in 2013. “In the movie business, actors, producers and directors are more like mercenaries, constantly on the hunt for a new deal – and an Oscar unquestionably helps command higher paychecks.”
Undoubtedly, an Emmy can boost viewership dramatically, which translates into increased awareness and respect of the network. Mad Men, for example, was nominated for 16 Emmy Awards after its first season, causing its audience to surge by more than double. By winning outstanding drama series, the show boosted AMC network’s credibility as a whole, defining it as a place for innovative, award-winning dramas.
In the case of Netflix, a slew of Emmy wins and nominations in 2014 – that year, the streaming site received nominations for 31 Primetime Emmys and won seven – established it as a destination for “prestige programming.”
For actors, an Emmy can give them more options when it comes to choosing and finding roles, but not always. In 2011, Felicity Huffman, who won an Emmy for Desperate Housewives in 2005, told Variety: “I think with any award, it’s like a fried egg: It’s hot for a while and then it’s cold. When it’s hot, it’s really good. And when it’s cold, you could go, ‘I don’t know what to do with that?’ ”
Jean Smart, an actress who won two Emmys for her guest role on Frasier and one for her role on Samantha Who?, suggested that there might actually be a negative effect to nabbing an Emmy.
“That’s not good, but I suppose if someone was not familiar with your work it might not hurt. It might help to say, ‘She won three Emmys,’ ” Smart told Variety. “I will be honest that was like, aw, shucks. I’ll give you one of the Frasiers back.” That same article reported that an Emmy win can help an actor negotiate a bigger paycheck, but for the most part, the benefits of winning one are somewhat intangible. (“People take your calls a little easier. People are a little more eager to meet you,” Huffman said.)
A 2015 Emmy certainly boosted the profile of Uzo Aduba, who won outstanding supporting actress for her role in Orange Is the New Black – and it also gave us the opportunity to bawl uncontrollably when she said, “I love you mostly because you let me be me,” in her acceptance speech.
At the end of the day, the Emmys isn’t really about winning or losing. While presenting in 2015, Amy Schumer put it best: “Let’s not forget what tonight is really about – celebrating hilarious women and letting the Internet weigh in on who looks the worst.”
The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards will broadcast live Sunday on ABC from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.