Emmys 101: How winners are determined

Unlike the Academy Awards where all 5,800 motion picture academy members can vote for most of the competitive categories, Emmys winners are decided by just a portion of the 16,000 strong TV academy. 

Members may judge up to five categories: two program awards and three more races within their peer group (e.g., acting, directing, writing). Most of those who take part opt to sit on only one or two panels. They must watch the videos submitted by all nominees in a given category before filling in their ballots.

Acting nominees pick one episode as a sample of their best work. Producers of drama and comedy series nominees select six episodes which are broken into three pairings of two episodes that are distributed randomly.

Gold Derby has compiled lists of episodes which can be seen by clicking the categories below

 Comedy Acting   Comedy Series
 Drama Acting   Drama Series 

From 50 to 75 members of the acting branch decide each acting category. And between 750 and 900 members overall vote for Best Comedy and Drama Series with three groups of 250 to 300 viewing two episodes of each nominee. (Vote for the winner of Best Comedy Series at the bottom of this post.)

Voters rank the nominees on their ballot from 1 (highest) to 5, 6 or 7 (lowest) depending on the total number in the category. They must also sign an affidavit attesting that they watched all the episodes and mail both in a sealed envelope to Ernst & Young.

RELATEDEmmys 101: How does the nomination process work

These accountants tally up the rankings, with the Emmy going to the nominee with the lowest score. If there’s a tie, then the nominee with the most number 1 votes wins. If the tie continues, then the nominee with the most number 2 votes prevails, etc. 

With such small numbers of voters for the acting races, each number one vote is vitally important. Consider the case of Drama Actress where there are seven nominees. Assuming that 75 members of the acting branch take part, an actress could win with as a few as 12 number one votes (with three of the others earning 11 and the other three 10 each.)

Below, the calendar of events that take place as part of this process. 

Week of August 5
Creative Arts Awards: At-home judging DVDs mailed

Week of August 12
Telecast Awards: At-home judging DVDs mailed

August 23, 5:00 PM
Creative Arts Awards: Deadline for returning ballots 

August 30, 5:00 PM
Telecast Awards: Deadline for returning ballots 

September 15
Creative Arts Awards and Ball

September 22
CBS telecast and Governors Ball

6 thoughts on “Emmys 101: How winners are determined

  1. I think it’s bad that each voters only watches two episodes of the drama and comedy series nominees I think in order to judge the shows each voter should watch all 6

  2. When tvland was showing reruns of Murphy Brown, I taped one of my favorite episodes. Murphy and Corky were voters on the fake news award, the Humboldt Award – and they had to go to this place and were placed in a room of 5 and had to watch and all agree on a winner,,, anyway, for the Emmy’s , from my understanding, they used to have to actually show up and watch the categories and tho it seems inconvenient by today’s standards, I think they should still do that to ensure they actually watch what they are supposed to be voting on. and i agree with tony, the panel should see all 6 tapes for series, not just 2

  3. I believe the Lifetime TV movie, “Return to Zero” should be nominated for an Emmy Award because it tells a true story believably and with great sensitivity for the subject matter. I also think Minnie Driver should be nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of the lead character. I hope you take me seriously because great movies like “Return to Zero” are rare and we need more movies of this caliber on TV.

  4. Is there any way to support a nomination in order to get a win??? I concur with Judith—I want Minnie Driver to get the win!

  5. All EMMY go to ALL shows with the flip side of traditional American programming. Homosexual, socialist, Christ bashing innuendo/theme based programming comes out on top, (shows must bash “Republican” party by name several times per season). These will be the winners Year after Year. While once in a century creations of brilliant writing, acting, directing, music will be NOTHING–Like VIKINGS! A Pox and a Plague on all of you hypocrites who vote, this thing is so rigged for the liberal leftists it should be taken off the air.

  6. The Oscars are all based on the exact same flip side of social, economic and political traditional American culture. That’s why so many really stupid, bad movies get the top awards year after year, with exceptions like Avatar and Braveheart. Otherwise ALL of you know the awards are now a joke. Notice how many really bad, really stupid movies have won for the soul reason they feature a pro-homo script, or just a homo-based script. Or a far left political script that rips “Republicans” and “Christian Right” every other scene. The Academy Awards has become another joke, but the masses like me still like to see the celebs, although its all a little more boring every year?

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