Tradition Dies As Emmys Face Stiff Competition

Viewers' choice: Sunday's Emmy Awards will be up against new episodes of "Dexter" (top left), "Breaking Bad" (top right) and "Boardwalk Empire," plus a football game (pictured: Bears QB Jay Cutler). Photos: Showtime, AMC, HBO, Getty Images)

It used to be unheard of, but like so many other traditions in the TV business, the custom of only broadcasting reruns or a three-hour movie opposite the annual Emmy Awards telecast has apparently fallen by the wayside.

Such is the case this Sunday, when the ultra-competitive TV industry will come together for “The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards” (8/7c on CBS) — the industry’s one opportunity each year to showcase the best it has to offer.

But in a trend that has grown in recent years, some of the industry’s most honored shows will actually be airing new episodes opposite the awards — drawing attention and viewers away from the Emmys.

In his monologue last Wednesday, Jimmy Kimmel inventoried the stiff competition the Emmys will face Sunday night.

“On Sunday, it’s ‘The 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards’,” Kimmel said. “You know, next to the second-to-last episode of ‘Breaking Bad,’ and the series finale of ‘Dexter,’ and ‘Sunday Night Football,’ the Emmys are the most anticipated show on television on Sunday!”

It’s a situation the TV industry used to deliberately avoid.

Once upon a time, tradition held that all the networks other than the one airing the awards would stand down on Emmy night — in order for the industry as a whole to achieve maximum viewership for its annual showcase of awards and accolades for shows of all types across all networks.

It was the reason why the Emmy Awards were set up to rotate among the four broadcast networks each year — this year CBS, and in other years, NBC, ABC and Fox. But in today’s fractionalized TV universe, the four broadcast networks no longer have the clout to dictate that the rest of the industry maintain the tradition of mounting no competition for the awards show.

So some of them — most notably HBO, AMC and Showtime — will be airing new episodes of some of their most important shows. In addition, one of the broadcast networks — NBC — will have what will probably turn out to be the night’s highest-rated telecast, the “Sunday Night Football” matchup between the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Expect ratings for the Emmy Awards to dip for at least an hour starting at 9/8c when three of cable’s most distinguished series air new episodes:

1) “Dexter”: Showtime’s long-running drama series about a serial killer will bring the curtain down after eight seasons with its series finale. One thing notable about “Dexter”: It’s not up for a single Emmy this year — but its finale is highly anticipated and will almost certainly draw viewers away from the Emmy telecast on CBS. As it happens, some Showtime viewers might stick around when “Dexter” is over for a new episode of the Liev Schreiber drama “Ray Donovan” at 10/9c. The “Ray Donovan” episode is the show’s first-season finale.

Comcast Showtime subscribers: Click on the pic to watch last week’s episode of “Dexter”:

Killer companions: Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan and Yvonne Strahovski as a like-minded murderer in "Dexter" (Photo: Showtime)

2) “Breaking Bad”: Look for this AMC series to be an even bigger drag on the Emmy ratings than “Dexter” since, at the moment, “Breaking Bad” is TV’s most acclaimed — and talked-about — show. Moreover, the series is in the midst of a particularly intense run of episodes; Sunday’s show is the second-to-last episode of the entire series, which comes to its long-awaited conclusion a week later (Sept. 29). Meanwhile, over on CBS, “Breaking Bad” will be up for 13 Emmys — including acting nods for cast members Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn and Jonathan Banks.

Comcast subscribers: Click on the pic to watch last week’s episode of “Breaking Bad”:

Skyler White (Anna Gunn) contemplates a bleak future in "Breaking Bad" (Photo: AMC)

3) “Boardwalk Empire”: HBO’s drama about gangsters in 1920s Atlantic City is up for 10 Emmys, particularly in the categories that honor costumes, hair and makeup (as this sumptuous “period” drama should be). Up for Best Supporting Actor: Bobby Cannavale. “Boardwalk” just started its fourth season Sept. 8, and will have its third episode of the new season on Sunday night.

Comcast HBO subscribers: Click on the pic to watch last week’s episode of “Boardwalk Empire”:

Al Capone (Stephen Graham) lays down the law in last week's episode of "Boardwalk Empire" (Photo: HBO)

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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