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What are the Emmy Awards?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Emmy Awards are awards presented to honor distinction in the field of television in the United States. They are often considered the Oscars of television, and like the Oscars, the Emmys are presented to people who represent a number of aspects of television, ranging from newscasters to engineers. The timing of Emmy presentations varies, with different awards being presented at different times; some Emmy Award ceremonies are nationally televised, while others are kept on local stations only. Among other things, Emmy Awards are given for both daytime and primetime performers, sports coverage, news, technical accomplishment, and regional programming.

Three organizations cooperate to present the Emmy Awards. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences handles Primetime Emmys, while the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awards Emmys for daytime, sports, news, and documentary programming. The International Academic of Television Arts & Sciences recognizes achievements in international programming, saluting the best of non-American television programming. All told, 13,000 Academy members vote on their fields of expertise.

The first Emmy Awards were held in Hollywood in 1949. The distinctive Emmy statue, depicting a winged woman holding an atom, was developed in 1948 by Louis McManus. The statue is supposed to represent the arts, through the female figure, and the sciences, through the atom. The name for the award is taken from “Immy,” a slang term for “image orthicon tube,” a component of many early television cameras. Since the figure is female, “Emmy” seemed more appropriate to the Academy. In 1972, daytime Emmys began to be awarded.

Many people follow the results of the Emmy Awards because they can reflect popular and professional opinion on truly excellent television shows. Networks are always pleased to garner a few Emmy Awards at the ceremony, since it suggests that a show is strong and that it will have staying power. For individual actors and actresses, of course, an Emmy Award is a great honor, just as an Oscar is for film actors.

In addition to saluting excellent television programming, the Emmy Awards also recognize achievements in television technology. Regional awards are also offered for the 20 regional chapters of the National Academy, and the Academy also recognizes achievements in public service on television. Business, financial, and news reporting also honored with Emmy Awards, although these awards do not usually take place at the same time as the Emmy Awards which garner greater interest, such as the Primetime Emmys.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseTour researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By apolo72 — On Feb 15, 2008

I heard that the show Frasier has won the most Emmys. Is that true? I know it was a popular show but I figured ER or Seinfeld or the Simpsons would have won the most?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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