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YouTube CEO: It’s Time for the Emmys to Embrace Creators (Guest Column)

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It’s time a creator won an Emmy.

You might not expect MrBeast to stand on the same stage as Jeremy Allen White. But if you think creators are just recording vlogs from their bedrooms, then I have some big news. Creators have writers’ rooms, production teams, and business strategies. They’re developing programming that’s not just popular and relevant – it’s breaking boundaries.

Creators are defining a new era of entertainment. And they deserve the same acclaim as other creative professionals.

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Some might argue that broadening the Primetime Emmys to include consideration of creators would detract from its storied history or lessen its cultural significance. But recognizing the work of creators is the best way for the Television Academy to continue its legacy of honoring modern culture, while also building a bridge to the next generation of viewers.

When the Academy first met in 1946, television was still a new medium. Over the years, the awards broadened as TV evolved, adding categories like reality competitions and short form comedy. Given massive cultural shifts in recent years, it’s time for the Academy to evolve again or risk becoming out of step with the mainstream.

Honoring creators won’t take away from others that receive well-deserved recognition. Instead, it will add to the celebration by including everyone who deserves consideration in current Emmy categories. And in the years ahead, the Academy could consider expanding their categories to cover the full range of entertainment.

The Emmys are a celebration of the best of television, and they should reflect what viewers are actually watching on their TV screens.

Today when we come home and turn on the TV to watch with friends and family, we pull up YouTube. The numbers show the shift to the living room — YouTube is number one in streaming watchtime in the U.S.

The number of top creators with a majority of their watchtime coming from TV has increased more than 400 percent in the last three years.

People around the world love to watch creators as much as they love to watch traditional media. If viewers aren’t discriminating between these categories, then neither should the Emmys.

More and more, viewers are tuning into creators who are reinventing our favorite genres, like Hot Ones. Sean Evans’ YouTube talk show launched in 2015 with a premise based on spicy chicken wings, and now it’s a hit. It’s garnered more than 3 billion views and features a regular rotation of celebrity guests.

Or take Good Mythical Morning, a groundbreaking variety program that creators Rhett and Link started 12 years ago. Today they have more than 18 million subscribers.

I visited Rhett and Link’s studio last year, and I was blown away by the speed of their creativity and their strategies to respond to viewer feedback. Traditional shows have to wait for their next season to take cues from their audience, but creators can instantly tweak their approach based on fan feedback and sophisticated analytics.

From months-long livestreams to Shorts, creators are always pushing the envelope. Now they’re doing the unexpected once again by developing long form episodic shows on their YouTube channels. Michelle Khare’s Challenge Accepted is shot beautifully in 4K with a cinematic approach that documents her exhilarating adventures. And viewers have responded enthusiastically. The series has received 640 million views.

Creators are driving cultural trends and bringing in huge audiences, but they’re also doing something even more important. They’re leading us into the future of entertainment and pushing the industry forward. As we enter a new era driven by AI, creators continue to lead the way. They’re jumping in to make the most of this moment even as traditional studios are still navigating the path forward. Creators see AI’s potential to amplify, augment, and scale their creativity. They’re using AI tools to grow their reach and translate their videos into other languages with just a click of a button.

On YouTube, creators are already experimenting with AI in ways that expand the boundaries of creativity. Like karenxcheng’s creation of a beautiful origami world or the anime scene that Corridor Crew filmed in live action and then converted into animation with AI.

Creators are the new Hollywood. They’re taking over television screens and finding big audiences. This puts the entertainment industry at a crossroads. If creators are not acknowledged by the Emmys, then we should ask ourselves if the awards represent the future of TV or just its past.

The Television Academy has long been considered the pinnacle of creativity. In order to maintain its relevance and emerge a leader in the digital age of entertainment, the Emmys should celebrate all kinds of content, especially the creators whose storytelling is pushing culture forward.

Neal Mohan is the CEO of YouTube.

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