2020 Emmy Awards Data Analysis: Streaming’s Primetime Collapse

Emmys Data
Cheyne Gateley/VIP

The most stunning trend in this year’s Emmys was the collapse in primetime wins for streaming services. The last two years have each seen 12 primetime wins across streaming services; 2020 saw three (two for Netflix, one for Apple TV+).

A prime factor for this shift was the success of Pop TV’s CBC import “Schitt’s Creek.”

As was the case with FX’s “The Americans” in 2018, it took the final season of a show to air for it to receive Emmy love. “Schitt’s Creek” propelled cable to what likely is a final stand, with the 38 total wins closely shadowing streaming’s 43.

This trend will likely reverse next year, aided in part by the impact of COVID-19 on production for most companies other than Netflix. There will also be more eligible streaming services for the 2021 Emmys in HBO Max and Peacock, which are airing shows that previously would have been shown on their corporate parent’s cable networks. Discovery’s proposed streamer could arguably see nominations for documentaries given its partnership with the BBC, and ViacomCBS’ Paramount+ rebrand of CBS All Access has promised high-quality originals.

HBO led the field on the big night with 30 total wins and 138 over the last five years. Netflix came in second with 21, taking its five-year haul to the 100 mark. This is all the more stunning when noting the 52 total wins that NBC, third on the list, amassed between 2016 and 2020, almost half that of Netflix.

Primetime awards are arguably the Emmy categories that matter most, reflecting the quality of acting, writing and directing, and here “Schitt’s Creek” 2020 dominance is all the more remarkable. The haul of seven primetime Emmys means the network is now in sixth place for total primetime wins over the last five years, ahead of the likes of ABC and Hulu.

Only four companies took home 10 or more total Emmys in 2020. These were led by WarnerMedia (37), followed by Disney (24), Netflix (21) and ViacomCBS (19). It is of note that Disney’s total wins for 2020 is both the median and modal average across the last five years, meaning that although Disney+ netted eight Emmys for Creative Arts, it didn’t boost Disney as a whole to new heights.

Next year looks to see streaming services resume their position atop the primetime pack. With traditional media companies putting more focus on their streaming efforts in an attempt to compete with Netflix, the 2020 awards are likely a final hurrah for cable. But it also serves as a reminder that quality programming does still exist across the viewing spectrum and isn’t just the purview for subscription streaming. 

This will change as each company has its own direct-to-consumer offering and tries to attract viewers with the best content it has on offer, likely hastening the demise of cable. The 2020 Emmys are a testament to the tried-and-true strategy of releasing quality content on cable. It will be a pity if it ends up being the last year this is recognized.