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The Emmys moved to Monday this year for one simple reason

Seth Meyers is hosting tonight's Emmy Awards.
Seth Meyers is hosting tonight's Emmy Awards.
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

Why are the Emmys on a Monday? And in August, no less? Well, we have your answers, both short and long.

The short answer: Football.

The long answer: The Emmys traditionally air on the last Sunday before the TV season begins. This year, that would be Sun., Sept. 21. The onslaught of fall premieres begins the next day.

However, since NBC acquired the rights to Sunday Night Football in 2006, the network has been stuck with a dilemma on when to air the awards. (All four major networks air the Emmys in a rotating wheel, making them the only awards show shared across the networks.) The NFL continues to be the most successful, most consistent ratings performer in the post-DVR, post-streaming TV universe, while the Emmys have struggled in the Nielsens of late.

The awards attracted just 12.4 million viewers in 2011 on Fox and only 13 million in 2012 on ABC. Last year, 18 million viewers watched the Emmys on CBS, but, notably, the lead-in for the awards was a football game, which surely helped direct traffic that way.

So the Emmys aren't bumping a regular season football game. NBC also can't put the awards on the Monday that starts the TV season, nor does it seem all that interested in airing them on some other September Monday. And while it aired the awards on a Sunday in August 2006 and in August 2010, it's quietly moved them to Monday this year for one simple reason: even preseason football, it seems, out-rates TV's top way to give awards to itself. And if that weren't enough, the presence of MTV's Video Music Awards ceremony made for further ratings complications. Better, ultimately, to air things on Monday.

The Emmys air at 8 p.m. Eastern tonight on NBC.

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