A few years ago, as cable began to dominate the Emmy Awards, broadcast network executives used to grumble that the telecast had turned into the Cable ACE Awards — the long-retired awards show that once honored the then-new cable medium. The joke needs to be updated: On Monday night, the Emmys continued its metamorphosis into the Streamy Awards.
For the first time ever, a streaming service tied to win the most Emmys in an awards year — Netflix, which ultimately tied HBO, as each won 23 overall. (And it might be pointed out, HBO is available to non-cable subscribers, via its HBO Now streaming service, which means both of this year’s top awards winners are consumed online by many consumers.)
Meanwhile, Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was named outstanding comedy series, marking the first time a streaming series won that award. “Maisel” won five awards Monday, the most of any series during the Primetime Emmys telecast.
Netflix’s haul came after nabbing the most nominations for the first time ever — 112, vs. HBO’s 108. Last year, HBO led all winners with 29 Emmys, followed by Netflix with 20.
The HBO/Netflix battle — which both sides publicly play down, but nonetheless is the source of much angling during the Emmy awards season — is partly a product of both channels’ volume strategy. HBO doesn’t produce nearly as many series as Netflix, but strategically competes in numerous key categories such as limited series and variety/talk, in addition to drama and comedy. Netflix is spending upward of $13 billion on programming, and its originals span the gamut.
Earlier this summer, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf — who had a great night — nonetheless said he hoped to produce a greater variety of programs in the coming years to remain competitive with HBO and Netflix in the awards race.
“When you look at the fact that HBO consistently gets a lot of acclaim and makes a lot of great television, I think even being a best-in-class brand to compete with HBO, we’re going to have to make some more,” he told IndieWire. “Ultimately I don’t get to decide whether we get to make some more because I’m not writing the checks. But if you ask me where I think FX ought to go, we should continue to do what we do well and invest in ‘best-in-class’ programming. And to be a ‘best-in-class’ brand, we have to do a little more and be across more genres.”
Netflix looked to end the night as the overall network leader, until HBO’s “Game of Thrones” pulled off a last-minute victory for Outstanding Drama Series. “Thrones” was considered a front-runner, along with Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But as the Emmy telecast progressed, and neither “Thrones” nor “Handmaid’s Tale” dominated in acting, writing, and directing categories, it looked to be anyone’s game.
It wasn’t all roses for the streamers, however: Hulu, which made history just last year as “The Handmaid’s Tale” won the first outstanding drama series Emmy for a streaming platform, only won four awards this year — and none during the primetime ceremony. Making it extra disappointing for Hulu: The streamer, likely counting on some wins on Monday night, used the Emmy telecast to launch a new advertising campaign centered on the tagline “Better Ruins Everything.”
Other streaming services have been even more disappointed: YouTube, for example, failed to receive any notable nominations or wins this year.
Overall, the network wealth was spread around a bit more this year: Behind HBO and Netflix was NBC, which won 16 — up one from last year’s 15, once again making it the top broadcast network winner. And FX Networks scored 12 overall, doubling its tally of six last year.
ABC, on the other hand, avoided being completely blanked at the Emmys, picking up a sole trophy for the Oscars. CBS didn’t win any Monday, but had picked up two at the Creative Arts Emmys. For two broadcast networks that once dominated the Emmy Awards, it continues a long downward slide. (It also makes it a bit baffling that the broadcast networks continue to renew their deal with the Television Academy to carry the Emmys.)
NBC’s haul comes, as has been the case in recent years, thanks in large part to “Saturday Night Live.” The latenight series won its 72nd Emmy (the most of any program in history), as it once again won for outstanding variety sketch series. It’s also producer Lorne Michaels’ 16th Emmy win.
Several firsts were also seen this year on the Microsoft Theatre stage: Amy Sherman-Palladino’s back-to-back wins for Outstanding Comedy Writing and Outstanding Comedy Directing — in both cases, for the pilot to “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” — was a first for a female.
Sherman-Palladino won the most Emmys of any individual this year, winning four: As director, executive producer, music supervisor, and writer.
Meanwhile, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” broke through as outstanding reality-competition series, becoming just the fourth winner in the category’s 15-year existence. Before this year, only three shows had won: “The Amazing Race” (10 times), “The Voice” (four times), and “Top Chef” (once). And in the 10 years since the Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Series category was added, no show ever picked up both in the same year — until this year. At the Creative Arts Emmy Awards the week previous, host RuPaul Charles won his third consecutive Emmy for outstanding host.
With its drama series win, “Game of Thrones” was the most-awarded program at this year’s Emmy Awards, with nine overall. “Thrones” now has earned 47 Emmys throughout its run, the most wins ever by a comedy or drama series.
“Saturday Night Live” and “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” were next, tied at eight each, and then FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” with seven.
Netflix’s tally was spread among “The Crown,” “USS Callister (Black Mirror),” “Godless,” “Queer Eye,” and “GLOW,” while, besides “Thrones,” HBO’s wins included “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” “Westworld,” and “Barry.”