LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Could 2010 be the last year the Primetime Emmy Awards are aired on broadcast TV?
The newly re-elected head of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the group that organizes TV's highest honors, certainly hopes not.
Still, John Shaffner faces a tough challenge preventing the low-rated event from slipping into oblivion.
The Primetime Emmy Awards are in their final year under the current deal with the Big Four broadcast networks. The license fee for the Emmys is a key source of financing for the TV academy and its programs, but with broadcast ratings downtrending, convincing the networks to shell out a large sum for the Emmys may prove a tough sell.
"This is a challenge; it's a puzzle, but it's not impossible," Shaffner said. "I believe the TV business wouldn't be the same without a big wonderful Emmy program every year."
And while the academy is open to any ideas about new distribution partners for the Emmys, "we're looking forward to work with our traditional broadcast partners," he said.
Emmy viewership has plunged in recent years due in part to the awards success of shows that barely move the ratings dial, such as "30 Rock" and "Mad Men." Last year's show was the most-watched since 2006, thanks in part to the irreverent tone set by host Neil Patrick Harris.
The 2010 event will air live on NBC on August 29, a little earlier than usual. For now there are no plans to repeat last year's failed attempt to pull some categories from the live broadcast. But Shaffner said the academy expected to keep several elements, including the "generalization" of the telecast, where award categories are grouped by genre.
Additionally, "we are really going to focus on the year-in-review packages; they are an opportunity for the audience to come together," he said.