The entrance of Amazon Video, Netflix and Hulu has made the primetime TV awards even more competitive
She’s out of the White House, but still has a winning hand.
The 69th Primetime Emmy Awards take place in Los Angeles this weekend and as proof that nothing is sacred, you can wager on the outcome. At gambling website Bovada, political comedy “Veep” has -375 odds to take home the outstanding comedy series prize, meaning that a $37.50 wager will win you $10 and your wager back; it’s also the top pick for Dublin-based Paddy Power.
Bookies at both Paddy Power and Bovada also think Donald Glover will walk off with the outstanding comedy actor title for his work on “Atlanta,” with the former listing it with ⅓ odds. Meanwhile, entertainment awards publication Gold Derby, which isn’t a gambling platform, favors “Veep’s” fictional ousted president Julia Louis-Dreyfus with 2/9 odds to win the best comedy actress statuette for the fifth consecutive year.
If these figures remind you of sports gambling, that’s no accident. The likes of Bovada and Dublin-based Paddy Power are best known for dealing with wagers to do with the sports field, not Tinseltown. But both are also among a handful of brokers offering odds for major entertainment shindigs like the Oscars and Emmys.
Risking the house on television is a distinctly different process from taking bets on the Dallas Cowboys. For one, bookies can rely on everything from a weather report analysis to likely player availability and other advanced statistics to reduce their liability on sports wagers. Entertainment “is a bit trickier for us because it’s not very scientific,” says Pat Morrow, head oddsmaker at Bovada. “We’re much more comfortable with math behind sports [because] we can’t just go off what we think is a good TV show.”
“We only get forty to fifty percent of the Emmys right,” says Tom O’Neil, the editor-in-chief of Gold Derb and a veteran entertainment reporter who’s written a book on the Emmys. “That’s how hard it is.” (That said, industry observers say a 55% accuracy rate on your bets can already reap huge profits.)
Still, professional crystal ball gazers have developed relatively rigorous prediction methods. Morrow’s team studies TV ratings and critical reviews before spinning out their numbers, while Gold Derby’s odds are based off the predictions of 3,000 regular readers and 22 experts who cover entertainment for the likes of TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly and Variety. Gold Derby is owned by Penske Media, the publisher of Variety.
There are also some patterns. Winners of the Creative Arts Emmys, which this year took place a week before the primetime awards, often work on programs that historically do well at the latter. Then, there’s the predictability of the Emmy voter base, which includes members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. “They’re like TV re-runs and repeats,” says O’Neil. “The frontrunners are presumed to prevail again.”
The media conglomerates that broadcast these TV programs also have a say via their lobbying campaigns. The same red carpet treatment that’s rolled out to Oscar voters—champagne receptions, early viewings and celeb meet-and-greets—are often extended to those with a say in the Emmys. By O’Neil’s estimate, $100 million will be spent this year on such efforts.
Of course, professional forecasting is liable to epic failure—just ask Hillary Clinton What Happened. Paddy Power had 1/6 odds on favorite “La La Land” to emerge with the best picture statuette at this year’s Oscars, only to see dark horse “Moonlight” trot away the champion. “It caught the whole industry by surprise,” says David Fleming, Current Affairs trader at Paddy Power.
Throwing a wrench into historical precedence is the emergence of deep-pocked streaming platforms like Amazon Video, Netflix, Hulu and soon, Apple and Google’s YouTube.
As a series from the traditionally underperforming horror genre, produced by a service (Netflix) that has never won a major Emmy, “Stranger Things” would traditionally be an outsider, yet Paddy Power has it as the favorite (7/4) for outstanding drama. In second place with 2/1 odds is “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which comes from Hulu, which has never won an accolade at the LA event. (Hulu is co-owned by four mass media giants including 21st Century Fox, which shares common ownership with Moneyish publisher Dow Jones.)
“It’s very brave to [predict] Netflix and Hulu as winners since there’s no precedence, but there’s enormous industry buzz,” says O’Neil, adding that the current political climate favors the dystopian series helmed by Elizabeth Moss.
Of course, even if they get it all wrong, bookies won’t be too adversely affected. Emmy wagers are less popular than those for the Academy Awards and only make up a fraction of their earnings. At Paddy Power, less than $14,000 had been placed on this Sunday night’s wager, while Bovado generally caps Emmy bets at $200.
“It’s fun for us though there’s not much money,” says Bovado’s Morrow. “Maybe we’ll get someone that will bet a little on outstanding lead actress and then look at our casino or sports products.”
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