<img src="//bat.bing.com/action/0?ti=5439530&amp;Ver=2" height="0" width="0" style="display:none; visibility: hidden;">


Navigating Awards Season 101: How does it all work?

Navigating Awards Season 101: How does it all work?

Managing an Awards Ceremony and want to know how the heavy hitters get it done? You’ve come to the right place.


The Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmy Trifecta. The Grand Slam of Awards Season. (credit: Heightline)

 1. Determining Eligibility 

Most awards have a qualifying eligibility period, usually from the beginning of the calendar year to the end – preventing some submissions from being judged that year.  It’s also extremely likely for awards to have various pre-qualifying factors. Some have to do with length, how much time it spent at the box office, release venue, airtime, etc. 

The Golden Globes: January 1st to December 31st

Films must be at least 70 minutes long and have to have been release for at least a 7 day run in the greater Los Angeles area starting prior to midnight on December 31st. TV programs had to have aired in prime time hours from 8pm to 11pm, with various excluding factors like if it were played on pay-per-view or some other digital delivery of film. Entry forms ofr films need to have been received by the HFPA within 10 days of the official screening.

The Academy Awards:  January 1st to December 31st

Films must be over 40 minutes in length and have been publicly screened for paid admission in Los Angeles County for at least a 7 day run. The Film cannot have premiered outside of the theater – that would render the film ineligible.

The (Primetime) Emmy Awards: June 1st to May 31st the following calendar year

The show must have aired on American Television between the designated eligibility period, and have aired between 6:00PM and 2:00AM to at least 50 percent of the country.


2. Accepting Nominations

The nominations process is often extremely complicated, if not completely impossible to wrap one’s head around. Let’s take a look at how it’s done.

Request a Demo with Openwater

The Golden Globes: In November of the calendar year, HFPA members are each sent a ballot along with a list of eligible films and TV programs. Each ballot designates space for top five choices in each category, numbered from 5 to 1, with 5 as the top choice. The nominees in each category are determined by the five selections that receive the most number of votes.

The Academy Awards: Oscar nominations involve a lot of math, and rely on a system we call “preferential balloting”. First thing you need to know is that the only category that all the Academy members can nominate on is Best Picture – all other categories are made so that only nominations can only occur within one’s peer group. At the Academy Awards, voters are given five spots to rank their nominations – the same as the Golden Globes.

However, what’s different here is that there is a “magic number” determined by the number of “first place” votes an actress, actor, or director receives that serves as a threshold to make someone an automatic nominee. (I won’t go into the math that is used to determine this magic number, but it has to do with the total number of ballots versus the total number of possible nominees). For example, if the “magic number” is 345, and an actress receives 346 votes for Best Actress during the first round of counts, she is automatically a nominee.

After the first nominee is determined, the remaining stack of ballots are counted to determine who got the lowest number of “first place” votes to become a nominee. Then, that stack of ballots with the nominee given the lowest number of first-place votes is reassigned according to their second-choice nominees – and this process keeps going until there are only five nominees. Confusing, huh?

The Emmy Awards: Ballots are sent to Academy members in June, and for most of the categories, nominations are limited to individuals in their respective “peer group” categories. Same as the Oscars, all members can vote for Best Program Nominations. What’s different however is that for the Emmys, Academy (the TV version of the Academy) members can nominate as many people as they want per category with just a few exceptions. The Emmys use straight-line voting, which means raw numbers are used as opposed to a system of ranked votes.


3. Final Voting

What may be the most excruciating process for actors, actresses, directors, and fans, turns out to be the easiest part of the awards process. Most awards ceremonies rely on plurality voting to decide the winner, given that there are often more than two or three nominees in each category, making a majority vote/runoff something that can be unfeasible with time constraints.

The Golden Globes: The HFPA receives the final voting ballots after the nominations are announced around mid-December, and the winner is selected through plurality voting.

The Academy Awards: The nominations usually wrap up mid-to-late January, and final ballots are sent out to every Academy member. For the final vote, every Academy member gets to vote on every category from the list of nominees chosen by their respective peer groups. The Oscars is also a plurality vote – with the film or actor with the most number of votes winning.

The Emmy Awards: The same as the top two, all 22,000+ Academy members get to vote again during the final round. The nominees with the most number of votes win.


There you have it! Awards management is a complicated and detail-oriented process, sometimes you need a little help. OpenWater manages some of the world’s most prestigious awards, such as the Peabody Award and Ad Age’s Best Places to Work. Still not sure if a OpenWater’s Award Management Software  is what you need? Click here to find out more about OpenWater and our Growthstack.

Already with OpenWater? Have you checked if your organization is OpenWater certified? Hurry! Check out our calendar to find out about upcoming webinars and certification programs.

Request a Demo with Openwater