Emmys 2010 Review: The Two-Screen Experience

With social media shown to improve ratings for awards shows, and tech-savvy Jimmy Fallon hosting, it’s little surprise that last night’s Emmy Awards had enough going on to warrant a two-screen viewing experience. Since the Emmys were aired live (and not tape-delayed on the West Coast) for the first time ever, I sat down with the show on my television and my laptop on my lap when things began live at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT.

On my laptop, primarily, was the Emmys Backstage livestream, which offered seven different camera angles for the action behind the scenes. This included the ever-riveting Producer Cam…

…and the comparatively more engaging Thank You Cam, where winners could speak at length without getting played off.

Switching between camera angles wasn’t something the viewer could control, despite the slightly deceptive buttons placed below the player. While this meant that an unseen operator was making sure the livestream focused on the most interesting moments of the night, I wouldn’t have minded having that sort of control.

The entire purpose of the Emmys Backstage live streaming seemed two-fold: to ensure that you watched the show live, and give you something to do during the commercials. Accordingly, I only turned on the audio on my laptop during commercials (muting the TV) so most of my favorite moments took place then. Including:

  • A confused Betty White, wandering around backstage in the livestream’s earlier moments, trying to figure out where she was supposed to go.
  • Fallon being told that according to “the tweets coming in, [the audience] loved” the opening sequence, to which he reacted with a cute little fist pump.
  • Listening to the producers count down from the end of commercials, letting me know: a) the show was on a 15-second delay and b) when I should reach for my remote to turn back on the volume.
  • Fallon rehearsing many of his bits, including a Matthew Perry joke that landed decently during the live broadcast.
  • George Clooney laughing in the green room, possibly at a video featuring Lost producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.
  • Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons, the on-camera Top Chef talent, using the Thank You camera to make their own speeches following Top Chef‘s reality/competition series win.
  • A shot of the show clock, revealing just how long they were going.
  • Tom Selleck sitting in the green room, perhaps mentally preparing himself for Fallon’s awkward bit about him being “his real father.”

The livestream’s technical performance was okay, despite some occasional audio sync issues. While we’re still waiting on final numbers from Ustream, I saw the viewer numbers climb from less than 50,000 to just under 75,000 over the course of the show.

The “I’m On the Emmys” Twitter campaign boiled down to three generic presenter introductions over the course of a three-hour show; thus the Backstage experience was really the only bit of interactivity that landed with me (and the actual interactivity there was minimal). However, I did use my laptop occasionally to check things like when Keri Russell was last on TV, prior, of course, to her new show with Will Arnett, coming this fall. (The answer, if you’re wondering, is 2007.) The overall experience was just enough to keep me entertained during commercial breaks and the more long-winded speeches.

If there’d been more social media, and more engaging social media at that, would the show have still suffered a slight drop in ratings from last year’s show? Maybe.

However, the low-rated Mad Men and HBO programming dominated, and Conan O’Brien didn’t win for the aborted Late Night, thus never got a chance to speak directly to his former NBC (s ge) bosses. Probably the most controversial moment of the night was when Matthew Perry turned down a free beer. In short: It didn’t help that an awards show celebrating great drama was pretty much drama-free. All the Twitter contests in the world couldn’t fix that.

Related GigaOm Pro Content (subscription required): The State of Social TV