This image released by Netflix shows Kate Mulgrew, left, and Lorraine Toussaint in a scene from “Orange is the New Black.” The second season of the prison series will be available on Friday, June 6, on Netflix. (AP Photo/Netflix, JoJo Whilden)\

Netflix, Amazon and even Yahoo took home record numbers of Emmy Award nominations on Thursday, further validating streaming services that have become rivals to traditional television networks.

The critical acclaim for shows such as Netflix's "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black" and Amazon's "Transparent" provides more than just an ego boost to the streaming companies.

As Netflix, Hulu and Amazon try to grow their audiences, they see original programming as the key to attract and keep customers who have many choices for online entertainment.

[The battle between Netflix and HBO is just beginning and this man holds the key]

Netflix led streaming companies with 34 Emmy nominations, up from 31 last year and 14 nominations in 2013. The most went to "House of Cards," which received 11 nominations including best drama series and best actress and actor in a drama series (Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey, respectively). New Netflix series "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series and Lily Tomlin joined nominees for best actress in a comedy series for "Grace and Frankie." Ben Mendelsohn of Netflix's new "Bloodline" series was nominated for best supporting actor in a drama series.

Amazon Prime Instant Video will appear for the first time at the Emmy Awards with 12 nominations, mostly going to "Transparent," which was nominated for best comedy series and received a nod for best actor in a comedy series for Jeffrey Tambor's portrayal of a transgender woman. Yahoo, which only last year began to produce original content, can claim a seat at the awards, but for a lesser category: "Community," which Yahoo picked up from NBC last year, was nominated for Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or Variety Show.

Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have poured money into original shows, which they believe will be key to their global expansion -- and a way to compete with new streaming services from cable networks such as HBO Now. Earlier this year, Netflix raised $1.5 billion in debt to fund its creation of original shows. So far the strategy has paid off. Netflix announced 65 million global subscribers.

"We believe the higher than anticipated level of acquisition was fueled by the growing strength of our original programming slate," Netflix chief Reed Hastings said in a letter to shareholders this week.

Analysts credit Netflix's original programs for its loyal audience of viewers who tend to use the service more frequently than other entertainment apps. Nomura analyst Anthony DiClemente projects the company will reach 100 million global subscribers by 2020.

[If Netflix were a country, it would be bigger than Great Britain]

Analysts say competition is heating up with HBO's aggressive launch of its own streaming service. In the past week, it announced a partnership with Comcast.

To be sure, the streaming providers are still playing catch-up to traditional TV networks. HBO took home 126 Emmy nominations -- 24 just for "Game of Thrones" alone.

In that way, winter, apparently, is still far away.


GAME OF THRONES episode 35 (season 4, episode 5): Maisie Williams in the latest episode of GoT. photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO