The first annual Children’s & Family Emmy Awards will be presented on Saturday, December 10 (Creative Arts) and Sunday, December 11 at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles
If there’s anything awards watchers love it’s more awards, right?
This year, the creation of the Children’s & Family Emmy Awards (CAFE) marked the first standalone expansion of the Emmy Award competition since the Sports Emmy Awards and the News & Documentary Emmy Awards were launched in 1979, and establishes a dedicated ceremony separate from the Daytime Emmy Awards, which had been home to children’s and family programming categories. The announcement comes in response to Children’s and Family content representing the fastest-growing genre that NATAS awards, with a 23% increase in related programming the past two years.
Back in November 2021, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) and Television Academy jointly announced plans to realign the Daytime and Primetime Emmy Awards. Moving forward, the competitions will be organized solely by content genre as opposed to the current method, which separates programs based on program airtime.
“NATAS and the Television Academy each pride ourselves on celebrating and honoring the best television has to offer, and with the evolution of our industry, it was critical to update our competitions to meet current trends in both content and viewing habits,” said Adam Sharp, President and CEO, NATAS. “These changes will allow each Academy to honor an undivided scope of achievement in our respective fields of television excellence.”
‘The Mysterious Benedict Society,’ ‘Sneakerella,’ ‘Heartstopper,’ ‘Sweet Tooth’ lead 1st Children’s & Family Emmy Awards nominations
“The realignment of these Emmy competitions represents the most significant collaboration between the Television Academy and NATAS since the two became separate entities in 1977,” said Maury McIntyre, President and COO, Television Academy. “We’re proud to be responsive to the needs of the creative community and the evolution of our industry, ensuring the Emmy Award remains the preeminent mark of excellence across all genres of television.”
I talked with Rachel Schwartz, director of the Daytime Emmys to help break down and understand why we have to many different Emmy, the ever-evolving eligibilities of Primetime, Daytime and CAFE, lots on how judging works (because you know we love those details), more chances to EGOT and why something like Netflix’s Heartstopper surprised last spring by announcing it would compete at CAFE.
Erik Anderson: Hi, Rachel.
Rachel Schwartz: Hi, Erik.
EA: This is kind of fun because, all cards on the table and transparency open for readers, you and I have known each other for over 20 years. But this is an interview in a professional capacity, as professional as we can keep it.
RS: I can’t believe it’s been over 20 years.
EA: And we’re sort of here for the same reasons that we started and met, and that was kind of obsessing over awards, film and television and everything in between. And now we’re here, and we get to talk about awards. It’s kind of awesome.
RS: It’s pretty amazing. It’s kind of great and fascinating to see how many of us kind of came of age as the internet was coming of age and sought this forum or forums where we could talk to other people about these nerdy things that we thought we were the only people who had them in our heads. And we found our community, so to speak.
And so many of us actually went on to work in the awards space in these different capacities. You have your amazing website. And I’m so excited to talk to you today, especially because I know so many fellow awards nerds will be very excited to get into the minutia. And I am an administrator for two awards contests now.
I mean, I wrote my undergrad thesis about how to change Primetime Emmy voting. And it’s a real trip to read it now because there are references to mailing DVDs.
The idea that streaming existed would’ve blown my mind in 2003. It wasn’t anything that we could possibly process or put our brains around at all. But I think about that a lot. And I think about us just chit-chatting on a message board and all of us becoming friends in real life just from our love of awards. And what you’ve done with your site is just incredible. I mean, you’ve turned this into your career.
EA: Isn’t it weird? Isn’t this wild? We’re both in aspects of this industry that I don’t think we were thinking about at the time. We were just kind of having fun and talking, we just were enjoying the community of it. And here we are. Yes, and you are the director of the Daytime Emmys. And tell everybody what that means. What does it mean to be the director of the Daytime Emmys?
RS: I am so glad you asked that question because I don’t think anyone, including my own family, knows what I do. I am the director specifically for the Daytime Emmys and the new Children’s & Family Emmys. And what that really entails is my day-to-day duties are with regards to the administration of the contests themselves. So, what are the rules of the contests? What needs to happen for you to be able to enter? What are the categories? What are the eligible titles within each category?
For example, if there is a best program category, do you have to be an executive producer? Can you be a producer? Can you be a coordinating producer? Can you be a co-executive producer? Judge recruitment, assigning judges to the appropriate panels. And I hope that we’ll get to talk a little bit more about judging and what our judging process is like. And also vetting every single entry.
For instance, for Children’s this year, we got over 3,000 entries. All of those entries get looked at by a pair of human eyes to make sure there are certain markers that we are looking for to verify that they are indeed eligible.
So, one frequently asked question that I get is, “How come the submission period ends and then the ceremony isn’t for six months later?” It’s because we need to look at everything and verify that it’s eligible, then get it looked at by our judges. And then of course, there’s a certain amount of time that you have to have between the announcement of the nominees and the actual ceremony itself.
EA: Indeed. And the Children Family Emmys that you just mentioned, or CAFE, as we will probably call them for the rest of the conversation, it’s the first standalone Emmy award show since 1979. Why was it important to create this new section for kid and young adult programming?
RS: That’s correct. It’s the first one since 1979, actually the first new Emmys competition in my lifetime, which is crazy to think about. And the reason that this was really spun out was because children’s categories were always a part of the daytime competition, obviously Sesame Street being one of the most well-known winners in that space. But that genre continued to grow and grow and grow.
My first year with NATAS was in 2019. So, I tell people I had one real year before everything shut down. And that year when the children’s categories were part of the creative arts ceremony, we had 72 categories in one night. And those seemed to be where we were experiencing the most growth within the contest, but we did not feel that we could adequately give them the respect that they deserved. And we have seen that growth continue.
I’ve spoken to many people specifically in the animation space that have basically said, “We never shut down. The next day, we were set up working from home.” And they didn’t experience the same kind of production delays that live-action did. I.
It’s really a testament to the relationship between the two different television academies that this was able to even exist as a standalone competition. But we’re really, really excited about it. And the fact that we have 3,000 entries in its very first year already makes it the largest Emmys competition that the National Academy runs. And this is only the first year.
EA: That’s incredible. That’s really impressive, even more so thinking about two people looking at 3,000 submissions. My goodness, that is a lot of devotion and time.
In concert with the creation of CAFE, the Television Academy’s overhauled prime-time and daytime categories and removed time constraints and all of these things. How did this restructuring come about, and what benefits have you seen from it so far?
RS: It really came about because daytime slot is just a thing of the just past and more and more content entering all of the Emmy competitions is coming via streaming. So, it seemed to us that the best way to split everything was to realign the contests according to genre.
So, we are keeping the names “primetime” and “daytime.” Of course, those are legacy names, and we know what genres are traditionally associated with each of these competitions. But it was a very interesting exercise to really try to put a definition to things.
What we have seen is that there has been a great, great, great deal this year, great strides made in terms of lessening what the gray areas are for what belongs where. Obviously, we did not expect that all of those questions are going to be answered the first year of a major realignment. And that’s why we have put a pretty good system in place to establish what goes where.
And if you have questions about things, obviously the administrations are always in constant communication. But we also have a petition system set up to help guide any content creators who may not know where they belong.
EA: And speaking of eligibility and requirements, what are the requirements that a program needs to qualify for CAFE versus primetime or just the daytime?
RS: There’s a couple of ways that you can get streamlined into CAFE. The first thing is if you are rated Y or Y7, you are automatically CAFE. We define our competition as content for viewers from infancy to age 15 specifically.
So, PG and TV-14 is where we get the most sort of gray area. If you’re MA, you are automatically the purview of primetime. That was one area in which we really strengthened and clarified the language from previous years. For instance, we had a young adult series category that was won for the previous two years by Trinkets on Netflix, which is rated TV-MA.
That category has now been rebranded as Young Teen, and it’s specifically for viewers 11 to 15. If you are content that is rated PG or rated TV-14, there is a petition process that you can go through in order to basically gauge your eligibility.
If the petition is received and if both administrations are in agreement, then we have made our decision. If we are not in agreement, it goes to a panel which is made up of individuals with equal representation from both academies. And they watch a certain number of the episodes, and they are basically presented with, “Does this belong in category A with the category description, or in category B, with the category description?”
And one thing that we did this year, which we found was very helpful was … This voting process is completely anonymous, so nobody knows who else is voting and the members of the panel are not published anywhere publicly. But we asked people as they sent in their votes, if they felt comfortable, please give us their rationale for why they voted a specific way. We intend to use that language to help strengthen the category definitions in future years.
EA: With Primetime and Daytime Emmys, the eligibility windows are different, CAFE eligibility windows are different. What’s the reason for having so many different eligible windows?
RS: In general, NATAS contests, which are daytime … Before the creation of CAFE, daytime sports, and the news and documentary Emmys have always been calendar year. And our reason for that is that we do not recognize the traditional concept of the TV season. So, we frequently have shows that may have more than one season fall within that eligibility window.
With CAFE, we are actually going to be mirroring the eligibility window for primetime, where it’s going to be June 1st to May 31st. This year, we had an extended eligibility window, obviously to account for we haven’t … None of these shows have been eligible since 2020.
This year, we had an extended 17-month eligibility period that went from January 1st, 2021, to May 31st, 2022. But next year, we will have a traditional 12-month window, and it will mirror primetime. Our main reason for that is just that we don’t recognize the traditional September to May being a season.
CAFE being different is just by virtue of when the ceremony is going to fall and when the administration for the contest is going to fall. We can’t conceivably have a ceremony in December and say that it’s January to December of the previous year, and we’re rewarding your content that’s over a year old at this point.
Having the shows at different times of year means the judges don’t get burned out since we rely on an overlapping group of industry professionals for Daytime, Primetime and CAFE.
EA: Yes, absolutely. No, that makes perfect sense. One of the things that interests awards fans like us and the people we came up with are voting procedures and judging. I mean, we always want the ins and outs and the minutiae. So, how does that work for CAFE?
RS: Let’s get into it. That’s my favorite topic, Erik. I think it’s important to wind it back a little bit and just mention that there are two television academies.
There is the West Coast Television Academy, which for purposes of our discussion, they’re known for administering the Primetime Emmys. And then there’s the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, NATAS, which is my employer. We administer daytime sports news and doc and now, CAFE. We also have 19 chapters all across the country, and they individually administer the regional Emmys.
The two academies are separate, but we refer to ourselves as sister organizations. So, it is important when discussing voting to realize this is a completely different procedure from what goes on with the Primetime Emmys, although there is a significant overlap in the individuals that are doing the judging. So, our judging procedure is what we … And you will notice that I’m very specifically using the word “judging” because we call it judging as opposed to voting.
And in fact, we employ what we call a peer judging system, where essentially individuals apply to be a judge, and they are vetted based on specific characteristics that we are looking for. And they let us know their areas of expertise. And if they are approved, they are then placed on a panel, or two or three panels, directly related to their areas of expertise.
So, the cinematography category is being looked at by cinematographers. And if you come to us and you say, “I’m a cinematographer, we will put you there. Maybe we’re going to put you on lighting design, but we’re not putting you on an acting category. We also do not allow judges to judge their own work. we place them on panels where their work is not featured or there is a self-conflict option in which that entry is removed from their ballot.
Just as an example, we tend to have a two round judging system, especially in CAFE now that we see we’ve had 3,000 entries, where we take a look administratively at how many entries each category has. And in situations where we see there are just way too many entries in this category for us to conceivably believe that a judge is going to sit down and actually be able to watch this material, we will then break it up into smaller panels.
For instance, if we have a hundred entries in a category, we might say, “We’re going to split this into four panels of 25 entries.” So, we’ll have four different panels of judges. And the highest scoring entries, regardless of what panel they were on, would get moved on to what we call the blue-ribbon round of judging. And most interestingly, this round of judging determines both the nominees and the winners in the same round of judging.
RS: To break that down a little bit further, every category undergoes a blue-ribbon round, but only certain ones undergo preliminary. That first cut is totally administrative. There is no announcement or communication with the entrants that your entry has been moved on. But for lack of a better term, we’ll call it finalists. And there are some categories where they have undergone this and some categories where all of the entries are being moved on to blue ribbon because there’s a smaller number of entries.
The judges go into our judging portal. They have a certain amount of time. We usually give them at least two weekends in there. They can go in as many times as they want, and they have to watch the entry and then score it on a rubric. At no point are they asked to compare the entries directly to one another, to select five, to choose their favorite, or to rank them.
They are giving each entry what they feel is the valid score based on their opinion of watching it. Each score has both a numeric and a linguistic value attached to it. And in fact, we engaged with a statistician whose expertise is in awards management, and he actually helped us to refine our scale. So now we are using a seven-point scale as opposed to a 10-point scale.
And they basically log their scores. And then barring any ties or anything like that, the top five highest scoring entries become our nominees and the single highest score becomes our winner. But what that does for us, and this is a big difference from primetime, is it eliminates any kind of FYC process. Because once the nominees have come out, there is no additional judging or voting that’s taking place.
EA: That’s one of my favorite parts, Rachel. Oh well. (laughs)
RS: It’s wonderful to be able to speak about this because we have a very diverse judging pool that comes to us. There are many qualifiers that could qualify you to judge. The easiest path is to be a member of the LA Television Academy. It’s not the only path. Obviously, if you are an Emmy nominee of any kind, you are eligible to judge with us.
But because we have judges that are sort of coming from many different aspects of the industry, this is actually one of my favorite things to talk about because there’s always more education that can go into our greater community about how these processes work. And we believe in being as transparent as possible.
We were the very first award show to put out a transparency report, and we will be putting out another one this year that is available for the general public to read. Anytime there is any sort of discrepancy or eligibility call that has been made, that information, it’s anonymous of course, but it has been made public.
EA: It’s one of the things that I’ve found the most fascinating about the television academies, and that is their willingness to try and adapt and change with needs and this transparency as quickly as possible. I find it really refreshing.
RS: We try to be proactive as opposed to reactive. I think that is part of the reason why the Daytime Emmys had their very first YouTube submission in 2005. So, they were very quick. It was far before my time working there, but they were very, very quick to see that this was a legitimate way to distribute content.
EA: I love it. One of the big news announcements earlier this year was that Heartstopper would not be submitted to the Primetime Emmys, but would go to Children and Family, to CAFE instead. And that caused a lot of questions. But I think from what we have talked about today, we’re kind of getting into a little bit of the reasons why. But can you talk a little bit about why this happened, why you think that it happened and what the future looks like for shows like this?
RS: Sure. I mean, it happens because Netflix petitioned to have it in CAFE. If you are rated … I think I went over this before, but to reiterate. If you are only locked into a specific competition, if you are Y or Y7, you’re locked into CAFE. And if you’re MA, you’re locked into primetime.
Actually, in both daytime and CAFE, we do not accept any MA content. So if you’re a PG or you’re a TV-14, you should be filing an eligibility petition to best determine where you go. They filed a petition to come to CAFE, and we felt as the administrators of the contest that we should send this to a full panel for their discretion. And there was a vote that resulted in Heartstopper being approved as a CAFE entry.
And one of the things that came about from the petition process with Heartstopper, but also with a couple of other shows, that we perhaps maybe didn’t consider, but it will be helpful for us in tweaking the eligibility language for next year, is that the panelists tended to really take into consideration whose point of view the show is from.
EA: Oh, I like that. I like that a lot. Do you think that the results of your first nominations are going to see a big impact on submissions next year for shows that are TV-14 and might be trying to figure out which way to go?
RS: We certainly hope so. The big thing with CAFE this year has been making sure that the word has gotten out to the community that it’s its own competition.
For a long time, really up until last year or two years ago, children’s programming had a category within primetime as well because there was still a day part component of the competition. We got rid of that because it became clear, obviously day part is less of a consideration, but it became clear that it was very confusing to the community if they should be going to daytime or primetime.
I think one thing that will come out of it this year, first of all, is obviously people … there will be a greater awareness of the existence of CAFE. And I hope that the first set of nominations, and then obviously we have the upcoming ceremony, will make it clear to the children’s television community that they have a home with us, they should enter us.
We have the ability to nurture 3,000 plus entries. And Young Teen is a specific place where we’re going to continue tweaking over the next few years. For sure. We’ve already seen that this year with lowering the age limit. But if more shows go through the eligibility panel process, it will help us as administrators to hone what kind of language we could put out there.
Our long-term goal down in the future would be we don’t need to have an eligibility process. It’s very cut-and-dry what program goes where, but this is the first year of a new competition where we obviously don’t expect to be there yet. And that’s why we have these checks and balances in place.
EA: For sure. Because even in the Primetime Emmys, the line between comedy and drama is blurred because television has blurred the lines of that enormously. I think one of the-
RS: It came quickly.
EA: Oh yeah. I think one of the other great things about the creation of CAFE is that we now have a whole new realm of possibility to EGOT, which again is another favorite of awards nerds like us. Because yes, CAFE will count as part of your EGOT on that way.
RS: Absolutely, as it should. Alan Menken EGOTed at the 2020 Daytime Emmys for Original Song in a Children’s, Young Adult, or Animated Program for “Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure” and that category has effectively been moved to CAFE. Only counting Primetime Emmys for an EGOT is saying only Primetime is a “real” Emmy, which is not a true statement. They get the same winged statuette. Is “Sesame Street” not television? Is “General Hospital” not television?
EA: As it should. So, like you said, the ceremony is going to be December 11th at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. And is there anything else that you want AwardsWatch readers to know about CAFE?
RS: Well, I can tell you this is being posted on Tuesday after this will already be real. So, when we announce the nominations on Tuesday, we will also be announcing that we’re actually splitting it into two different ceremonies. So there will be a creative arts ceremony on Saturday December 10th, and then CAFE will be on Sunday December 11th. And that’s largely a creative choice due to how many entries there were.
I’m not sure that we quite anticipated that every category would be viable when we created them, but there are 51 categories. That would be quite a long evening. And also, we want to feel like everybody gets their due. And nobody is getting their award over Twitter or anything like that. We really want to make sure that it is the ceremony and the celebration that the children’s television community really deserves to have. So they’ll both be at the Wilshire Ebell, so two nights back to back.
EA: I love it. It’s kind of become common now. The Primetime Emmys do their split between creative and primetime. Hollywood Critics Association separates Creative Arts and above-the-line. I love it. Are these going to be available to stream?
RS: The Sunday show will be live streamed on our The Emmys app or watch the watch.emmys.tv. The Saturday ceremony will be recorded and will be available on-demand after the Sunday ceremony is over. So, everybody will get to see everything, which is very exciting.
We did two full years of virtual shows. I did some green room producing right from this chair where I am talking to you right now. We’re pretty excited to be actually there in-person and seeing people’s actual faces. And we do feel like …
When the children’s categories were part of the Daytime Emmys, they were always such a huge part in terms of how many shows there were and how many entries they had. But they were repeatedly piling more and more categories into the creative arts ceremony because the daytime telecast was always the daytime telecast. There’s always going to be a huge focus on soaps and talk shows. And we love those genres, but there wasn’t really any chance for that ceremony to grow or to breathe at all because we were constricted by having a certain number of categories in a certain amount of time for television.
And we’re very excited whenever the Daytime Emmys are telecast. And I should mention that this year upcoming will be our 50th Daytime Emmys, so that’s very exciting. But the advantage of breaking out Children’s is that now this community really gets the tribute that it deserves. First, we love paying tribute to the soaps and we love paying tribute to the talk shows, and we don’t want to take away from them. The way to appropriately tribute both is to split this out into a separate competition.
EA: I mean, anytime we can have a live program is great, but I think even more so with award shows. As we’ve seen many times in many years of weird spontaneous things that can happen, good and bad, and the amount of control that is happening behind the scenes, it’s impressive always.
RS: One of my favorite things that I’ve done in my time here is that for the creative arts or non-televised awards, I should say, I’ve been writing the scripts for them. And I really appreciate doing that because I feel like the best person to write award show scripts are people who love award shows.
EA: Isn’t that weird? Isn’t that funny how that works?
RS: The more you love it … And it’s very interesting from my perspective because I’ve also vetted the material in these shows. So, I have probably a deeper knowledge of the actual content that is entered and is nominated than almost anybody else. But I feel like there are certain beats that you need to hit with an award show. And it’s my goal to always try to do that. And I think back to our days starting out the infancy and of the internet and how much we all learned from each other about that stuff. I think about that all the time.
EA: And it’s always great when an award show actually likes the awards and the people and the show that it’s about. That always really helps.
RS: I mean, I feel like my enthusiasm is probably my greatest asset. On my first or second day with NATAS, I said, “I think we should have a young teen series category because that’s what I watch.” I mean, I’m almost [intentionally muffled] years old, but that’s what I watch. And I feel like it’s not quite children’s and it’s not quite primetime drama. So there needs to be some middle grounds. And that’s sort of how that was born. And now it’s kind of-
EA: Now it’s-
RS… changed already. I’m pretty excited about the Heartstopper of it all.
EA: Yeah, very much so. I’m excited to see what next year looks like because of this year. I think it’s going to be really inspiring for creators and for everybody.
RS: There’s something that is innately interesting about CAFE in that I think the programming that comes to CAFE has the ability to actually, more easily than in any other contest, switch categories by virtue of the kids just aging up. And I think about sometimes, “Are there shows that are currently in the sphere of children’s and family viewing series that if the kids get any older, they’ll sort of transition into being a young teen series?”
EA: Interesting. And some shows aren’t doing that. I mean, not quite exactly. But when Riverdale started, it was relatively tame. It was risky, but it was tame. And then it turned into something else entirely. And I think shows can do that, like you said, as junior high or high school students age out into something else. And then you have next generations, college years and different things.
RS: It’s unfortunately canceled now, which is a grave injustice. But one show that sparked that thought was the Babysitters Club reboot. Those girls got older, they’re already kind of on the cusp. And if they got any older, I think they would fit into that 11 to 15.
RS: So that’s another area where I think young teen is ripe for growth because obviously there will always be new content coming and there will be returning shows. But I also think we may see shows that were previously in children’s sort of age up.
EA: I think one of the great things about that age group and that 11 to 15 area is that when you were growing up and definitely when I was growing up, the type of young adult content that was available wasn’t that deep and did not cross genres and subject matter the way that it’s able to now. So it makes that section always really valuable, really relevant.
I mean, God, we never had a Heartstopper when I was growing up. Are you kidding me? So, it’s always going to be of value, and I think it’s, again, one of the things that the creation of CAFE is ideal because of it.
RS: And it’s also relational to how much YA lit is available now too, which is also a burgeoning genre in literature and so much of it gets adapted into television as well. And I also read a lot of YA lit. So, I think another space where there’s going to be exponential growth probably throughout the next couple of years. And hopefully, those types of shows, as they are getting created and started airing, will know that they have a home within CAFE.
EA: I love it. Rachel, thank you so much for all of this deep diving. I think everyone’s going to love it. And congratulations on the creation of CAFE and hopefully the success of it too.
RS: Well, thank you so much. This was a big treat. Obviously, I’ve done a couple of interviews before, but never with somebody who’s known me since I was a literal teenager.