Applying for the News & Documentary Emmy® Awards: What You Need to Know

Posted on March 7, 2016
Banner emmy newsdoc 600x300

Every year, the News & Documentary Emmy® Awards recognize outstanding achievement in broadcast journalism and documentary filmmaking, awarding their coveted statuette to the very best news reports and documentaries that have aired on national television or streamed over the Internet. This year marks the 37th Annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards which are currently accepting submissions with a final entry deadline of April 14, 2016. Last year, over 1,600 entries were received, which were winnowed down to 218 nominees, then 45 winners. Needless to say, the competition can be fierce, leading every producer to the question: how can I make my submission stand out? With this in mind, ITVS hosted a live conversation via our social screening platform OVEE earlier this week, featuring David Winn and Christine Chin who are, respectively, Senior Vice President and Director of the News & Documentary Emmy® Awards. 

Here’s a recap of some of the takeaways from that webinar: 

How Are Submissions Judged? 

Submissions are screened and judged throughout the months of May and June. Submission videos, ballots and judging instructions are delivered to judges who have two weeks to review the submissions and cast their ballots. Entries are judged online by panelists who are certified as peers. Each judge casts a secret ballot. Judges' votes are not shared with other judges or with members of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. They are tabulated by the accounting firm of Lutz and Carr. 

What’s the 50% Rule? 

A program needs to be available to 50% of U.S. television households in order to be considered a national broadcast. Over-the-air network broadcasts, as well as cable or satellite programming generally satisfy the “50% rule.” Recently, entries that have streamed online qualify, which opens up more opportunities for independent producers…yes, Virginia, YouTube counts! 

Open to Innovation

In addition to the eligibility of online content, the News & Documentary Emmys include categories favorable to producers working outside of traditional broadcast formats. Three categories, deemed New Approaches, exist to recognize interactive, multimedia, and transmedia work. This year, a new category —Outstanding Short Documentary — has been added to recognize films that are 40 minutes or less in duration. 

Put on Your Writing Cap

Obviously, the video sample that you submit is key to showcasing your talents, but don’t forget that the submissions essay is your chance to speak directly to the judges about the merits of your program. Be concise, serious, and substantive, avoiding marketing pitches or accolade listings. Stick to the guidelines and observe the 750 word count. 

Don’t Double Dip

If you decide to submit your work to the News & Documentary Emmy® Awards competition, then you should not also submit to the Primetime or Sports Emmy® Awards. Do your homework first to determine which awards competition is the best fit for your program. Similarly, while you may apply to multiple News & Documentary categories, you may only apply to one Outstanding and one Best Of category (you can go crazy and apply to as many craft categories that may apply, though). 

Follow Instructions!

The same rule that applies to acing the SAT and surviving IKEA furniture assembly should guide you well, here: FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS! Be sure to read the Rules & Procedures guide closely before preparing your submission. However, if you’re still stumped, David and Christine will gladly answer your questions (see the cover sheet of submissions guide for their contact info). 

For additional tips on how to make your News & Documentary Emmy® Award submission the best it can be, watch the webinar recording, below. And if you’re interested in more filmmaker-focused webinars, including an upcoming presentation on the Primetime Emmy® Awards, follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more info! 


From our blog

  1. When Your Film Protagonist Finds You

    March 8, 2018

    ITVS-funded filmmaker Erika Cohn to discuss the unexpected joy in meeting Judge Kholoud and the project that became The Judge.

  2. Using Data to Measure Impact

    February 27, 2018

    How do you know if documentary film makes a difference in the world?  If you’re a social scientist, you evaluate it.That’s what the Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program did in one of the most extensive studies ever to look at the impact of documentary film in a global development setting (173 pages with attachments, for those counting).  The recently

  3. Abacus: Small Enough To Jail Nominated for 2018 Academy Award

    January 23, 2018

    For the second consecutive year, an ITVS-funded film will contend for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards.