Emmy Nominations: Digital Contenders Expand Boundaries of Television

With Amazon muscling into the Emmy race in a big way this year, the digital tide has turned. The boundaries and definition of television have been expanded by the rise of the SVOD heavyweights, stirring a creative explosion in the same way that cable began to broaden the horizons of the medium a generation ago.

The prominence of digital series in key races this year demonstrates that Emmy voters are making an effort to survey the landscape of original programming that has become almost overwhelming, with more than 300 scripted original series in active production during the past few years.

Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” managed to hold its own with a nom in the insanely competitive drama series race even after an Emmy rule change forced it out of the comedy series heat. Amazon Instant Video’s “Transparent” was as close to a sure thing as there was going into Thursday’s nominations. But nobody expected it to land 11 bids to rank as the most-nommed comedy series overall.

Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was a big surprise in breaking through into the comedy series race in its first season. Equally unexpected were the two acting noms (Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn) for Netflix’s well received but low-profile drama “Bloodline.” Same goes for Lily Tomlin’s bid for lead comedy actress for Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie.”

Emmy voters even ventured into the DIY world of LouisCK.net to recognize the comedian’s “Live at the Comedy Store” special. The noms for digital series also go deep into the craft categories, with everything from main title design for Amazon’s “Bosch” to visual effects for Netflix’s “Marvel’s Daredevil.”

The blossoming of SVOD players as full-fledged contenders alongside broadcast and cable nets has added more fuel to the fire of television’s renaissance as a storytelling medium. Where there are more platforms, there are more opportunities for new and distinct voices to shine. Exhibit A — look how the dawn of “Transparent” coincided with the groundswell in the nation’s discussion and understanding of transgender issues.

Amazon couldn’t have known at the time it greenlit “Transparent” that Caitlyn Jenner and other factors would bring the transgender community into the spotlight. But it’s also no accident that the show was there because the immediacy of television allows it to be both mirror and leader of the cultural conversation.

Television Academy chief Bruce Rosenblum wasn’t exaggerating when he opened Thursday’s announcement with the matter-of-fact statement that “television’s creativity, influence and impact continue to grow and have never been stronger.”

And Rosenblum, who has a good vantage point on the TV marketplace in his day job as president of Legendary TV and Digital, could be forgiven for adding a touch of hyperbole: “Television is now widely recognized as the preeminent entertainment platform with extraordinarily rich and varied storytelling,” he said. “Television dominates the cultural discussion and ignites the passion of viewers around the world.”

(Pictured: “Transparent”)

More TV

  • 9-1-1: Angela Bassett in the series

    Fox Sees Primetime, Sports Ad Gains As TV Upfront Wraps

    Fox Corporation is the latest to benefit from stronger-than-expected trends in TV ad spending, as the company notched strong gains in advertising commitments for its next cycle of programming – its first since selling off a large chunk of its media assets to Walt Disney. Ad demand was stronger than many executives anticipated, according to [...]

  • Charles Levin Obit

    Missing 'Seinfeld' Actor Charles Levin's Body Believed to be Found

    Oregon authorities believe they have found the body of the missing “Seinfeld” actor Charles Levin. He was 70 years old. According to Associated Press, Levin’s son reported the actor missing from Grants Pass on July 8. On July 12, search and rescue teams determined a search area in a remote area northeast of Selma with [...]

  • Oliver Jackson-Cohen Invisible Man

    ‘Haunting of Hill House’ Star Oliver Jackson-Cohen Returning for ‘Haunting of Bly Manor’

    Oliver Jackson-Cohen, who was recently cast as the titular character in the upcoming Blumhouse-Universal Pictures feature “The Invisible Man,” is set to haunt viewers once more on Netflix. Jackson-Cohen, who starred in “The Haunting of Hill House,” will return to star in the second installment of the Netflix anthology series, titled “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” [...]

  • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

    Amazon to Develop 'Jack Reacher' Series

    Watch out Tom Cruise, there’s going to be another Jack Reacher in town. In a competitive situation, Amazon has won the rights to develop a series based on the protagonist from Lee Child’s novels. The series hails from “Scorpion” creator Nick Santora, who will write, showrun and executive produce. Child’s “Jack Reacher” series has sold over [...]

  • Fox News Media Taps Jason Klarman

    Fox News Media Taps Jason Klarman as Executive VP, Marketing

    Jason Klarman, a veteran TV executive who has served stints at NBCUniversal and Fullscreen Media, has been named executive vice president of Fox Corporation’s Fox News Media, and will supervise brand strategy for Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and other assets that are part of the division. Klarman will report to Suzanne Scott, CEO [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content