For the second year in a row, Netflix racked up nominations and buzz at the Emmy Awards — and went home nearly empty-handed.
While the online streaming behemoth got all the chatter leading up to Monday night’s ceremony, thanks to the political thriller “House of Cards” and the first year of “Orange is the New Black” eligibility, Netflix was completely shut out of the big awards. Granted, it got seven at last week’s Creative Arts Emmys (including a guest actress in comedy prize for “OITNB” star Uzo Aduba), but no one watches that.
Even more telling, seven wins out of Netflix’s 31 nominations this year is a similar winning percentage to what it got at last year’s Emmy Awards. In 2013, Netflix dominated the conversation leading up to the awards, with 14 nods going to “House of Cards” and “Arrested Development.” The questions were constant: Would Kevin Spacey beat Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad”? Robin Wright could definitely take down Claire Danes of “Homeland,” right? Wrong. The streaming service won only three awards, two of them technical. That included “House of Cards” producer David Fincher for directing in a drama, though he didn’t even show up to collect the trophy.
The perception versus reality contrast is fascinating at the Emmy Awards, and really, in the ever-evolving television industry in general. Even host Seth Meyers had everyone primed to believe that Netflix was about to have a big night.
“MTV still has an award show for music videos even though they no longer show music videos,” he said at the top of his monologue. “That’s like network TV holding an award show and giving all the trophies to cable and Netflix. That would be crazy. Why would they do that?” Meyers also took a shot at the Netflix-versus-cable rivalry (compared to broadcast v. cable). “No one is happier to see streaming services take nominations away from cable than network television. Not very nice when someone younger comes along, is it, cable?” he joked.
And yet, that proved untrue: As the comedy categories kicked off the night, the first five out of seven trophies were handed to broadcast networks. PBS’s “Sherlock” beat out tough cable-heavy categories twice. Then, cable beat Netflix out of everything.
What’s going on? Well first, as demonstrated by the winners last night, the shows with all the buzz don’t necessarily mirror who takes home an Emmy Award. See: Repeat wins for “Modern Family,” “The Big Bang Theory.” Many thought Taylor Schilling could be a front-runner for lead actress in a comedy, but “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus won for the third year in a row.
Category inclusion could be part of the problem. As it’s been pointed out many times, though “Orange is the New Black” has its tragically funny moments, it’s kind of ridiculous to include the very grim show in the comedy category. That’s all on Netflix executives: as the people in charge, they can enter the show any way they wish. When the series did slightly better at previous award shows as a comedy rather than a drama, executives figured they would have a better chance to win in the lighter comedy competition crowd.
As for “House of Cards,” it’s possible the streaming format actually hurt the show in terms of staying on TV academy voters’ minds. Quick: What was “House of Cards” Season 2 actually about? Yeah, we can’t remember either. That’s because you can finish Kevin Spacey’s 13-episode devious plot in a weekend. Shows that are on televsion every week for many weeks — “Breaking Bad” — have much more staying power.
Other possible theories: Despite the solid reviews, maybe voters just don’t “get” Netflix. Maybe they literally don’t get Netflix.
Either way, all these issues speak to the deep chasm between the rapidly changing TV industry and the people in charge of deciding what’s the best part of it. The academy may pride itself on offering awards to television shows on any kind of platform, but the results definitively expose that the voters are extremely resistant to change — and it could be that way for quite a while.
Netflix tried to capitalize any way it could during the primetime show, as when presenter Jimmy Kimmel joked that, compared to movie star Matthew McConaughey, Ricky Gervais didn’t have a face for television, he had a “Netflix face.”
— Netflix US (@netflix) August 26, 2014