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Here's how much money an Emmy Award is really worth

Each year, actors, writers, showrunners, and everyone behind television's best and brightest series shine up their patent leather shoes, polish their bling, and get ready to walk the walk on one of awards season's poshest red carpets — the annual Primetime Emmy Awards. Without fail, every time the prestigious ceremony nears, one red-hot question burns in the minds of television aficionados the world over. 

It's not about who will take home the coveted award for Outstanding Drama Series (like HBO and Game of Thrones have done year after year), and it doesn't regard which talented performer might prevail in an always-stacked Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series — though those inquires are certainly juicy. No, the question that's always on everyone's mind days before the Emmy Awards broadcast is this: How much money is an Emmy Award really worth?

Let's break it down.

Emmy Awards aren't worth their weight in gold

The answer to that question will come as a surprise to many. According to CNBC, an Emmy Award costs just a few hundred bucks to make — only about $300 to $400. 

That may cause you to scratch your head and wonder why the cost is so low, but you should know that, despite their appearance, those gorgeous statues aren't actually made of solid gold. If they were made of gold, well, Emmy Awards would obviously be worth considerably more. As of September 2019, the price of gold is around $1,500 an ounce. At $1,500 an ounce, a single, 128-ounce Emmy Award would come in just shy of $200,000. 

Given that the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences dishes out dozens of awards during the ceremony each year (and that's even not counting the ones handed out in technical and creative arts categories prior to the "main" event), a per-Emmy price tag like that would set the Academy back tens of millions of dollars and likely make the Emmy Awards show cost-prohibitive. Which is why those Emmy Awards statues are actually made of copper and nickel, and ultimately given a thin, glossy coating of gold after the fact.

Now, considering how much money studios and media companies regularly spend to net their shows and stars the coveted awards, it really does seem like the Academy could make it a little more worth their while. Per a recent report from Variety, those Emmy campaigns are getting quite pricey amid what many believe to be the golden age of television: a top-tier campaign to take home one of the most sought-after Emmy Awards is thought to run roughly $1 million bucks — a number that only seems to be rising. 

While some in the industry still firmly believe the cost is ultimately worth the prestige (and positive press), others, like TNT and TBS President Kevin Reilly beg to differ. "It's been long held that really in terms of perception [an Emmy win is a positive]," Reilly offered, adding, "[but] from a bottom-line business point of view, no."

You can't put an actual price on an Emmy Award win

So, why do companies continue to dish out big bucks in search of an Emmy win? Well, in Hollywood, perception is king. And while spending a million dollars in hopes of netting an Emmy Award worth about $300 to $400 doesn't seem like good business, the fact is that you just can't put a price on the esteem that comes with an Emmy win. 

That's been true in the TV game for decades, with networks typically queueing up their "Emmy award-winner" sizzle reels for winning series before the ceremony itself is even over. But it's become even more of a coup in the streaming age, as every streamer from Netflix to Amazon is currently battling for the eyeballs of every demographic under the sun. Needless to say, a key win for a streaming series (see Hulu's 2017 Outstanding Drama Series win with The Handmaid's Tale) can work wonders for streaming companies who are desperate to lure Hollywood's A-list talent to their door.

As for what an Emmy Award win might do for said talent, there's the obvious pleasure that comes with knowing you've been rewarded for your hard work by a group of your industry peers. Of course, the business side of that coin is a little harder to judge. While the actors and creatives are quick thank their peers for such recognition, the big, broad smiles on the faces of those clutching an Emmy Award the night of the ceremony has just as much to do with what comes next. For up-and-comers, that Emmy Award signals the arrival of a talent worthy of investing in on future projects. For established talent, a win is validation that previous investments have more than paid off. And for any winner come the night of, that Emmy Award means a few more doors just opened up to them, and future investment likely just got a little pricier.  

If you want to see who takes home the top prizes at this year's Emmy Awards, tune in on Fox this Sunday, September 22 at 8 PM ET to find out.