Cynopsis Media Presents: The 2015 Peabody Telecast: Not Your Parents’ Awards Show


Only on Pivot this Sunday, June 21 at 9e/6p

The 74th Annual Peabody Awards

 Celebrate stories that matter
from all of TV, radio and the Web.

This year’s winners include Inside Amy Schumer, The Americans, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Serial and more.

Pivot, the network where what you watch does make a difference.

Cynopsis Media Presents: The 2015 Peabody Telecast: Not Your Parents’ Awards Show

Cathy Applefeld Olson

June 18

The number of televised awards shows is rising like the summer heat. How does Pivot TV plan to steal the spotlight when it brings the 74th Peabody Awards to primetime on June 21 at 9E/6P? By eschewing the run-of-the-mill “envelope, please” treatment altogether.

“We’re trying to change the perception that a [televised] awards show has to look like the single model that is centered on the reveal, that an awards show has to be built around the suspense of who is winning and only makes sense if it’s people sitting in the audience and four of them are losers,” says Dr. Jeffrey Jones, director of the awards that celebrate stories that inspire viewers to action.

This year’s 90-minute special hosted by Fred Armisen will include only portions of footage from the two hour-plus ceremony, which was held May 31 and bestowed awards on 40 winners including Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO), Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central), Fargo and The Americans (FX) and podcast Serial. Much of the show will comprise interviews conducted with the winners discussing topics including why their project is important to them and why it is a story that matters.

“The special is not a linear condensed version of the live event,” says Christy Spitzer, Pivot SVP of original programming. “We created a rich special so that the viewer really understands why these projects are being celebrated. Hopefully if they haven’t seen the project they’ll be so moved they’ll want to know more and go and watch.”

A Fresh & More Powerful Perspective
The focus on story over suspense makes the awards a perfect match with Pivot, which last year signed a three-year contract to air a Peabody Awards special. “I felt like it was my job to direct a much brighter spotlight on those stories themselves, so Pivot was a natural partner for us because they also recognize the power of narrative,” says Jones, who signed a three-year contract with the Participant Media-owned network soon after taking the helm in 2013. “The whole emphasis is on stories that inspire social change.”

This is not the first small-screen rodeo for the Peabodys. Last year Pivot aired the awards as an hourlong daytime special. They’ve also had screen time on A&E and PBS. But this year marks a salient move to dress up the awards for a television audience, while maintaining their core persona. To help achieve a more glamorous feel for the show, Pivot hired Den of Thieves, which produced the live event, to also shepherd the TV special. The awards took place at the elegant Cipriani in New York.

“Our goal is to transform and elevate the event and special to match the prestige of the award itself,” says Spitizer. “We turned it into a night-time event with a red carpet. And we also did something the Peabodys have never done before invite special presenters to present awards to a few of the winners.”

Surprise, Surprise
TV viewers are in for some big tweet-able moments, Spitzer assures. Tina Fey ups the humor barometer when her presentation to Schumer channels the night’s “Madonna moment because it ended in a kiss between Amy and Tina,” she says.

Saturday Night Live cast member Cecily Strong presents the award to podcast Serial in a sendup based on Strong’s spot-on imitation of Serial host Sarah Koenig in the SNL skit that put Santa Claus in the Serial spotlight. “This is the first time a podcast has ever won a Peabody and Cecily is the ultimate fan,” Spitzer says.

And Charlie Rose bestows John Oliver with a Peabody for his HBO series that uses comedy to highlight serious journalistic probes. “It was probably one of my favorite moments,” Spitzer says of the Rose-Oliver exchange. “Charlie really legitimized John Oliver as a journalist. Not that there is any need to legitimize John Oliver, but Charlie gave great insight into his approach to stories that matter. Plus, they’re such buddies.”

Likening the Peabodys to the Kennedy Center Honors, Jones says he hopes knowing the winners in advance will bring a bigger television audience and allow viewers to focus on the pieces that fall under the social action umbrella  which back in the early days of the awards were called “public affairs” programming.

“We’re using moments from the live event to give sneak peaks of what the special is going to be, with clips and photos that are being teased out until June 21. But the special itself is its own entity,” Spitzer confirms. One thing she hopes to convey through the small screen is the exuberant vibe in the room. “The winners are fans of everyone else’s work, so there’s a real electricity and joy. They’re all geeking out that they get to meet each other.”

How will Peabody define its television success this year? “It’s hard to measure, outside of ratings,” Jones says. “For me, if we have created a model where people, particularly journalists, begin seeing that awards shows can be different and actually talk about the stories themselves, then that’s a good thing.”

What’s Next
Jones and Pivot also hope to keep the conversation going. “In many ways my job begins where a lot of awards shows end,” Jones adds. “Peabody is trying to extend the social conversation around them year-round, whether through seminars, conferences, social media.”

On the horizon: The Peabodys app, which Jones expects to launch within the year. “We think we can work across media to highlight what are the best or most important stories in a given year. We need to talk about these types of issues, whether it be gender politics or sexual violence or mental health. Television is a good first step for calling attention to them but hopefully we will begin to move into a social media app where there’s even greater access for citizens.”

Keep Watching & Reading,
Lynn Leahey, Editor
Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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