LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Broadway musical impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber wowed more than 600 Emmy voters on a recent Monday night in Hollywood, playing piano as acclaimed singer Sara Bareilles performed a song from NBC's production of his hit rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.
The legendary British composer, creator of classic shows such as Cats and Phantom Of The Opera, said he rarely performs in public. But despite dozens of other awards, Lloyd Webber has never won an Emmy. And with a record number of shows vying for the television industry's highest honors, networks are amping up the star power and getting creative to shine a spotlight on their Emmy contenders.
Networks are going all out because an Emmy win, or even a nomination, can help build buzz for a show in a crowded sea of programming. That helps attract new viewers to traditional TV channels, and more subscribers for streaming services from outlets such as Netflix, HBO, or Amazon.
The Nat Geo cable channel brought Genius: Picasso star Antonio Banderas to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where guests mingled amid some of Picasso's original works. Earlier that night, Netflix staged a discussion with the very private Barbra Streisand about her latest concert film.
"Everybody in a way has become an underdog," said Michele Robertson, a long-time Hollywood publicist and awards consultant. "There is no slam dunk. Everybody feels like they've got to up their game."
With so many entries clamouring for attention, the Television Academy, the group that hands out the Emmys, changed its rules this year to allow multiple Emmy promotional events on the same day, and on weekends as well as weekdays.
The result? The number of Academy-sanctioned events increased to more than 100 from 61 last year, the organisation said.
At least 200 unofficial events also are crowding calendars, said veteran awards watcher Tom O'Neil, from cocktail parties to publicity stunts such as sending taco trucks to buildings where voters work.
Contenders will learn if their efforts paid off on July 12, when Emmy nominations are announced after tabulating the votes of more than 23,000 actors, writers, technicians and other members of the Television Academy.
Voting started June 11 and ends June 25. Winners will be unveiled on Sept 17 at the televised Emmy awards ceremony.