For the first time, local cable systems have banded together to air a festival of some of the best cable programs from the past year to help champion them for Emmy Award consideration.
And while the three-weekend festival that begins Thursday is clearly designed to influence members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences during the Emmy nominating period, regular cable viewers will benefit too. Subscribers of 28 cable systems will be able to watch the programs on a free public-access channel, even though some of the fare comes from pay channels.
Last year, the first that cable programs were eligible for night-time Emmys, the cable industry received only 15 out of the 337 total nominations. Some cable executives complained that the nominating process, which does not require academy members to have seen the programs that they vote to nominate, worked against cable programming. They contended that with only about half the homes in the Los Angeles area wired for cable, many academy members might never have had the opportunity to view any cable programs. And others who did subscribe probably wouldn't receive all of the pay channels.
"When you consider the enormous quantity of programming on cable, it's easy to miss some of this stuff," said Chris Derick, president of the Southern California Cable Assn. "I remember going to the ACE Awards (cable's version of the Emmys) and saying, 'I never heard of that show. That's a wonderful show.' A lot of (Academy) members never had a chance to see what is available. So there was an interest to create some kind of informal screening process for Emmy voters."
But Derick, who is also president of Choice Television, the cable operator for Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, said that cable operators decided that the festival could be a valuable promotional tool too.
"We very quickly realized that we had a bigger interest in telling our regular customers what our better product is," Derick said. "It has become more of a customer promotional event now--to give the general public a chance to see the good stuff that is on both basic and pay cable. That's what's driving it."
Twenty-eight Southern California cable systems, including Century, Choice, Continental, Comcast, Falcon, Paragon, Simmons, United and West Valley Cablevision in the Los Angeles area, will participate in the 12-day festival.
The special presentation--with programs submitted by Arts & Entertainment Network, Cable News Network, the Disney Channel, the Family Channel, Home Box Office, Showtime, TBS, USA and the Nashville Network--can be seen Thursday through Sunday for the next three weeks from 8-11 p.m. each night. (Viewers should call their cable operator for a complete schedule of programs and for the channel on which these shows will be featured.)
The Southern California Cable Assn. has taken out ads in Emmy magazine, Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter to alert Emmy voters to the special screenings. TV Academy members will cast their Emmy nominating ballots from June 29-July 16. (Cable executives say they do not have a gripe with the way the Emmy winners are selected because voting in the final round is done only by judges who have seen all the nominees at academy-sponsored screenings.)
HBO, which won all three Emmys awarded to cable last year, is pushing "Tanner '88" and two original movies, "Dead Man Out" and "Glory! Glory!" for Emmy consideration this year. Showtime has submitted an episode of "It's Garry Shandling's Show" and a couple of concert specials. USA has episodes of "The Hitchhiker" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents"; CNN will offer some of its recent coverage of China; the Disney Channel is pushing a documentary on the history of the Disney company; Arts & Entertainment has "The Eagle and The Bear--Dateline: 1961, Cuba," and TNN will show "Roy Clark's Friendship Tour: USSR."
Movietime and KROQ-FM deejay Richard Blade will host the festival. Derick said he is hopeful that it will become an annual tradition.