×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Netflix’s Ascent in Emmy Nominations Reflects Broader TV Industry Shakeup

Five years after Netflix scored its initial Emmy nomination for its first original series, the streaming giant has reached another milestone in breaking HBO’s 17-year streak of dominance in the annual Primetime Emmy Awards nominations derby. 

Netflix’s narrow edge over HBO in total noms (112 vs. 108) is rich with symbolism at a moment when the entertainment industry’s old guard is scrambling to reorient a big part of its business operations to reflect the Netflix effect — i.e. making a boatload of original programming available via commercial-free streaming in a 24/7 on-demand format. It’s an incredible feat, pulled off in what feels like a blink of an eye for many industry veterans.

HBO’s ascent over perennial Emmy darling NBC in the early 2000s signified the center of gravity in the TV industry shifting from broadcast to the pay-TV universe. Today, Netflix’s Emmy nominations haul reflects the white-hot momentum at the company that is writing eye-popping nine-figure checks to lock up top creative talent in exclusive deals.

Netflix is outspending HBO by a huge margin in programming, with an estimated budget of $8 billion this year compared to HBO’s $2 billion. All of that money helped Netflix pull ahead after coming in just behind HBO last year (with 91 noms to HBO’s 111). The need for greater financial firepower to push HBO was a driving force behind Time Warner’s decision to merge with AT&T.

Netflix has taken a few pages from HBO’s kudos playbook by diversifying its Emmy contenders base. This time around, Netflix was up for the limited series categories with “Godless” and “Seven Seconds,” for numerous documentaries, and even the nebulous informational series or special category for David Letterman’s return to TV (at a salary of $2 million an episode) with the interview series “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.”

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos took in the good news while attending the annual Allen & Co. conference for media, tech, and banking moguls in Sun Valley, Idaho. He was gratified by the depth and breadth of the recognition from the Television Academy.

“I’m most happy that the nominations were spread out among 40 different shows. That’s a tribute to all the people who worked on those shows,” Sarandos told Variety. “I’m glad we have so many people happy today.” He was gracious in crediting HBO for “setting the bar so high” for achievement in Emmy nominations. HBO holds the Emmy record for most nominations for a network in a single year in 2015 when it raked in 126.

In this context, the exponential growth of Netflix programming makes HBO’s passel of noms impressive given that it has fewer programs overall to put up for contention. Among programs earning five or more noms this year, Netflix had eight while HBO served up seven. Netflix also did it without its original horse in the race, as “House of Cards” was ineligible this time around. 

HBO notably claimed the top two most-nommed programs, “Game of Thrones” (with 22 bids) and “Westworld” (21, in a tie with NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”). Netflix’s top program nominee was “The Crown,” with 13, followed by “Godless” and “Stranger Things” with 12 apiece. HBO also got big assists from its freshman Bill Hader comedy “Barry” (13) and made-fors “Fahrenheit 451” (five) and “Paterno” (two), and the return of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (four). One of HBO’s biggest Emmy-bait programs, reigning comedy series champ “Veep,” was ineligible this year after grabbing 17 bids last year.

The heated Netflix-HBO duel also underscores the wealth gap between the two subscription giants and the rest of the prestige TV pack. The 220 noms for Netflix and HBO combined are equal to the combined total of its next five most-nommed competitors: NBC (78), FX (50), CBS (34), ABC (31), and Hulu (27).

The absence of “Better Call Saul” from this year’s race (it did not air in the June 2017 through June 2018 eligibility window) hit AMC hard. Last year the cabler grabbed 13 noms, with “Saul” accounting for nine. This year it has one bid, in the short-form drama/comedy series category for “The Walking Dead” offshoot “Red Machete.”

Showtime, on the other hand, rebounded this year with 21 bids, paced by “Twin Peaks” (nine) and the Benedict Cumberbatch starrer “Patrick Melrose” (five). Last year, CBS’ pay cabler earned 15 nominations.

Emmy voters once again demonstrated their bias toward incumbency, with repeat noms dominating many of the top series and acting categories. But there were examples of voters exploring the outer reaches of the TV universe.

BBC America’s buzzy “Killing Eve” grabbed a lead drama actress nom for Sandra Oh and a writing nom for series creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Hulu’s Sarah Silverman series “I Love You, America” and TruTV’s “At Home With Amy Sedaris” were surprise picks in the competitive variety-sketch series category. John Leguizamo was recognized for limited supporting actor for Paramount Network’s “Waco.”

The show that continues to defy Emmy gravity is VH1’s workhorse “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” It tied NBC’s “The Voice” as the most-nommed unscripted series with 10 mentions, up from seven for “RuPaul” last year. Host RuPaul Charles has claimed the Emmy for reality-competition host for the past two years, and will be back on the Emmy catwalk looking for a three-peat.

RELATED CONTENT:

More Biz

  • Jussie Smollett Good Morning America

    Jussie Smollett Angrily Denies Complicity in Attack

    Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett issued a statement Saturday denying that he orchestrated his Jan. 29 assault, and saying he is “angered” and “devastated” by recent developments in the case. Chicago police want to interview Smollett, after learning new evidence from two Nigerian brothers who were released on Friday night. Local media outlets have [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Colin Kaepernick Kneel

    Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid Reach Settlement With NFL

    Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, two football players who alleged the National Football League colluded to oust them from the game after they started kneeling in protest of racial inequality during the playing of the national anthem, have reached a settlement in the matter, according to a statement from the sports organization and lawyers representing [...]

  • R. Kelly

    R. Kelly Could Be in ‘Big Trouble’ Over Alleged New Sex Tape, Attorney Says

    Strong allegations of sexual misconduct have followed R. Kelly for 25 years, but the singer has always managed to slip free. Yet reports that a videotape of him sexually assaulting an underage girl, combined with the outcry surrounding the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” means that public sentiment, at the very least, is definitely not [...]

  • Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in

    New Media Residuals and Feature Films Contribute to Spike in Writers' Pay

    The outlook for members of the Writers Guild of America has brightened — even amid pervasive uncertainty in the entertainment industry. According to the most recent report to WGA West members, earnings surged 2.8% to $1.41 billion in 2017, thanks mostly to gains in feature films and new-media residuals. Total covered earnings for WGA West [...]

  • Joe Dante Gremlins

    Hollywood Execs Seek Licensing Deals at the New York Toy Fair

    On Feb. 16 more than 30,000 studio executives, buyers and toy company reps will gather in Manhattan for the annual Toy Fair New York, all vying for market share and trying to snag the latest hot trend in a fast-changing industry. Those working the film side of the business will focus much of their attention [...]

  • Lady Gaga Bradley Cooper A Star

    Universal Music Group Fuels 11.3% Rise in Vivendi's 2018 Revenues

    Vivendi’s revenues were up 11.3% to €13.93 billion ($15.7 billion) in 2018, powered by Universal Music Group, which delivered such hits as the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack and Drake’s new album. UMG’s revenues climbed by 10% to €6 billion ($6.8 billion) compared to 2017. On top of the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack, the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content