Yes, Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Arrested Development’ are eligible for Emmy nominations

Netflix stormed into the TV conversation this year, thanks to the splashy political drama “House of Cards,” and the return of cult favorite “Arrested Development.” Now, as Emmy nominations loom Thursday, one key question: Are these shows and their stars even eligible for Emmy Awards, given that they’re not technically, you know, on television?

Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey in "House of Cards" (AP/Netflix, Melinda Sue Gordon)

Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards” (AP/Netflix, Melinda Sue Gordon)

Short answer: Yes. And it has been that way for awhile.

Back in 2008, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences initiated a rule change that allowed shows streamed via the Internet to join broadcast, cable and satellite as an Emmy-eligible national platform, explained John Leverence, the academy’s senior vice president of awards.

To be super technical about it, the rule reads as follows:

“Programs (and individual achievements within them) are eligible for nomination if they were originally aired or originally transmitted during the eligibility year…by pay/basic cable transmissions (including by way of example so-called basic cable, pay cable, pay television, pay-per-view, interactive cable and broadband) to markets representing at least 50% or more of households in the United States.”

“The Academy has never categorized programming by distribution platform,” said Leverence via e-mail, adding that they don’t distinguish, say, Oustanding Drama Series, by whether the show airs on broadcast or cable.

The eligibility period for this year’s awards is June 1, 2012 through May 31, 2013 — meaning “Arrested Development” made it just under the wire with its May 26 premiere date. (Another academy rule states that the series must air six episodes in that time period; so that worked nicely to “AD’s” advantage since, obviously, all 13 episodes were available immediately.)

Meanwhile, why the eligibility rule change in 2008? It was the result of a “surge” in short-format Internet programming, according Leverence, which included everything from live action entertainment to animation. He points out that was also around the time when TV producers were starting to experiment with Internet productions.

For example, “Quarterlife,” the Web series from Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick — which was canceled almost immediately after it was picked up by broadcast television.

Emmy nominations are announced Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

See the full list of nominees.

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