Netflix Emmy Win Marks First Major Category Award for an Online Video Distributer
By Amol Sharma and Alexandra Cheney for The Wall Street Journal
If Hollywood wasn’t already taking Netflix seriously, it is now.
The streaming video service scored a win at the TV industry’s Emmy Awards on Sunday night as David Fincher took the best director prize for political drama “House of Cards.” It marked the first victory in a major category for an online video distributor.
The Emmy win could boost Netflix’s prestige in Hollywood as an outlet for high-quality original series and further encourage writers, producers and actors to consider Netflix projects at a time when competition for talent among TV networks is as fierce as ever.
But despite the milestone for Netflix, high-profile cable channels racked up victories, too, showing their continued strength in the face of new competition.
The Emmys once were a showcase for the best broadcast TV. Then cable networks started grabbing the lion’s share of awards with increasingly ambitious programming in recent years. And now Netflix and other online players represent a new wave of competition.
No broadcaster was nominated in the best-drama category for the second consecutive year, a sign of how much competition major networks face from basic cable channels, premium cable and now Netflix.
Gareth Neame, executive producer of PBS’s “Downton Abbey” and the coming NBC series “Dracula,” said in a recent interview broadcasters “are being forced to catch up to Netflix and cable channels” by making edgy, serialized dramas.
Broadcasters did have continued success in comedy categories. ABC’s “Modern Family” won for best comedy for the fourth consecutive year. Jim Parsons won his third best actor award for his portrayal of a quirky scientist in CBS’s hit “The Big Bang Theory,” and NBC’s “30 Rock” won a writing award.
Mr. Fincher’s win for Netflix’s “House of Cards” may validate, at least in part, the unorthodox approach the company took to developing the series. It committed $100 million for two seasons of the show upfront, without requiring a pilot as networks generally do. And it distributed all 13 episodes of the first season at once to facilitate binge-viewing.
At last week’s Creative Arts Emmy awards, Netflix took top honors for casting in a drama and cinematography in a single-camera series.
Netflix’s decision not to disclose viewership figures for its programs has been controversial in Hollywood. In the absence of that information, some TV executives have questioned how popular Netflix’s acclaimed shows like “House of Cards” really are, even as many express admiration at what Netflix has been able to produce.
Netflix says it has no reason to release ratings since its programming is commercial free and it has no advertisers to impress. “Netflix really plays by their own rules,” Ryan Kavanaugh, CEO of the studio Relativity Media, said recently. “We’ve come to accept them as a contender,” he added.
Netflix has more than 37 million subscribers globally, including over 28.6 million paying customers in the U.S.—roughly on par with HBO. Investors so far are buying into the company’s strategy of making big investments in its original programming and licensing of popular TV shows, even though the company isn’t yet generating big profits.
For the second quarter, Netflix reported net income of $29 million on revenue of $1.07 billion. Its shares have been on a tear all year, up 238%.