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Smaller Shows Could Shake Up the Emmy Race With New FYC Strategies

"The Hot Zone" found its own way to heat up FYC season, with events in 10 different cities.

"The Hot Zone"

“The Hot Zone”

National Geographic/Amanda Matlo

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Los Angeles has four seasons, just like any other place: Spring, Emmys FYC, Summer, and Oscars FYC. As the city finally begins to transition to summer, Television Academy voters can breathe a sigh of relief as nomination voting kicks off on June 10 and the churn of For Your Consideration events begins to slow.

There was something different about 2019’s crop of Emmys events, a departure from the full-scale assault launched by Netflix with more than month spent in residency at Raleigh Studios with a massive FYSEE space. This year, a network took the FYC show on the road.

To look at the schedule of Emmy-related events last month, a person could be forgiven for thinking there was a website error. After all, there were 10 events planned for NatGeo’s limited series “The Hot Zone,” for showings located all around the country.

But the mass bookings for the adaptation of Richard Preston’s nonfiction thriller were a feature, not a flaw.

“Obviously most of the Emmy voters are in L.A. and New York,” Chris Albert, NatGeo’s Executive Vice President of Communications Worldwide and Talent Relations said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “But our network is actually headquartered in Washington, D.C., and we are acutely aware that there are actually voters in other places as well.”

NatGeo wasn’t the only provider to consider this approach, as Netflix hosted an “Ozark” FYC in Atlanta, as the series is filmed in Georgia, but no other network attempted the sheer scope of “The Hot Zone” full court press.

With so much fanfare around this year’s limited series race, featuring contenders including “Escape at Dannemora” and “Fosse/Verdon” and no real front-runner, the network felt pressure to mix things up and inspired them to turn to their marketing team.

“They were doing consumer screenings in 10 different markets and we were like, ‘You know what? We’re going to also make these FYC events,” Albert explained. NatGeo then got the Academy’s approval for their out-of-the-box plan, but lacked the infrastructure to handle such a vast RSVP system, leaving the network to fend for themselves a bit.

But if you have an FYC event in Minneapolis or Portland or Pittsburgh or St. Louis or Boston, will anybody show up?

Yes and no. While Albert didn’t offer up any specifics he did share that while the turnout wasn’t spectacular, it was strong enough to try the gambit again next year.

“People forget that there’s a lot of TV series that film in Atlanta and Chicago and New Orleans,” he said. “Obviously it’s a very L.A./New York-centric business, but there are plenty of people out there who should have the same opportunity to see and experience shows before deciding who to vote for.”

"Schitt's Creek"

“Schitt’s Creek”

Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

These are the things that smaller networks are trying to wrap their heads around when forming strategies to go head-to-head with Emmys power players with seemingly unlimited pocketbooks.

This blending of consumer and FYC events might have also been in effect for another under-the-radar series looking for another way to get traction.

Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek” fosters hope of breaking through in a volatile comedy series category at the Emmys and though the show’s live tour, in which the stars gather to tell stories from filming and generally connect with their dedicated audience, was not an official FYC event, it does capture that FYC energy, offering insider insight into the show and acting as general promotion. The tour officially has nothing to do with the awards season. But timing being what it is, two sold-out dates at the Wiltern in late May certainly don’t hurt the show’s Emmy buzz.

That said, another strategy Albert mentions is the strategic use of the calendar.

“For ‘The Hot Zone,’ the timing of our premiere [in late May] meant that a lot of our consumer base advertising worked really well from an FYC perspective,” Albert said. “Look, we weren’t the only people that dropped a show right at the tail end of eligibility. So obviously that’s a tactic that others are using as well because your dollars can work harder for you.”

Ultimately, he isn’t afraid of taking on the big dogs in the Emmy race, in part because being smaller can have significant advantages.

“We can’t necessarily compete in scope and scale with some of our competitors, but where we can compete is in our passion for our projects,” Albert said. “And we try to give a really strong effort to all of our contenders because we don’t have dozens. We have six that we’re hyper-focused on and we’re giving them all as much love and attention as we can.

“And so I think that is sort of one of our strategic benefits that we have, is that I don’t have to make tough decisions over which show we’re going to support because we can support them all.”

When nominations are announced in July, Albert and other Emmy underdogs will find out if their methodology works or if new tactics are called for in taking on TV’s digital Goliaths.

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