Only four short years ago, streaming giant Netflix was just entering the Emmy race. Earning 14 nominations for original series “Arrested Development,” “Hemlock Grove,” and “House of Cards,” and ultimately winning one for directing for a David Fincher-helmed episode of the political potboiler, put the former movie rental company on the map with the TV Academy — and Hollywood at large.
These days, 14 nominations might seem small potatoes to Netflix, which has ballooned up to 91 noms this year alone, earning the title of second-most nominated network — behind only premium cabler HBO at 111. Its impressive depth now reaches across drama (“Stranger Things,” “The Crown”), comedy (“Master of None,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), limited series (“Black Mirror”), nonfiction (“13th,” “Amanda Knox”) and specials (Sarah Silverman). Meanwhile, the streaming competition — Amazon and Hulu — is still in wading in the teens, chasing Netflix’s numerical success.
Holding steady at 16 nominations year over year, Amazon has five programs in the race, with two-time nominee “Transparent” leading the pack with seven of those nominations. For Hulu, only two series split the 18 nominations achieved overall: “The Handmaid’s Tale” received 13, and “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years” received five.
Though Netflix burst onto the Emmys scene in 2013, Amazon’s first nominations were in 2015, mostly for Jill Soloway’s family dramedy “Transparent,” while Hulu didn’t earn a Primetime Emmy nom until last year.
Being an awards contender helps newer, or just lesser known, networks not only become a part of an important industry conversation but also expand their reach to a more mainstream audience. Being talked about in the same sentence as programming giants like HBO provides bragging rights — as well as the opportunity to pick up new customers and new collaborators in those who see accolades and want to be a part of the new big thing.
|“Being an awards contender helps newer, or just lesser known, networks become a part of an important industry conversation”|
While Netflix’s early Emmy favorites “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” are still contenders, the streamer has also been able to keep the awards momentum going with an unceasing supply of new offerings. This time around, freshman series “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” both broke through with strong showings (18 and 13 nominations, respectively). Ava DuVernay’s racially charged documentary “13th” tied with sophomore series “Master of None” as the third-highest nominated program (with eight).
Amazon’s bench isn’t as deep. Such shows as “Mozart in the Jungle” and “Goliath,” which scored Globe triumphs, just haven’t resonated in the same way with the Academy. “Transparent,” which is about to premiere its fourth season, failed to land a series nom this time out, though its star Jeffrey Tambor has won for the past two years and is nommed again this year. Perhaps some from their upcoming slate will prove to fare better. Season two of Bryan Cranston and Graham Yost’s “Sneaky Pete,” the adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final unfinished novel “The Last Tycoon,” a foray into the comic world “The Tick,” and Amy Sherman-Palladino’s two-season order for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” are all highly anticipated.
Hulu, meanwhile, focused its awards strategy on “The Handmaid’s Tale” and reaped the rewards — and the hope is that triumph will lure other top showrunners to its stable. Already on deck are Oscar-nominated Dan Futterman and Oscar and Emmy winner Alex Gibney with “The Looming Tower,” based on Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 9/11 exposé, as well as another J.J. Abrams team-up with “Castle Rock,” a psychological horror series based on characters from the mind of Stephen King.
What ultimately matters, though, may well be the wins: Both Amazon and Netflix have multiple trophies in their collection, while Hulu has yet to claim one. Given the tremendous buzz around “The Handmaid’s Tale,” that’s all but certain to change.