Netflix sets record with 23 Emmys, tying HBO for TV awards
Netflix won the most Emmy awards of any TV network Monday night, capping a sudden and dramatic rise to the top of the entertainment industry for a company that got its start as a DVD-by-mail operation.
Netflix earned seven awards during the prime-time presentation of Emmys and 23 overall, both records for the streaming giant. Its biggest prizes came for "The Crown,'' a period drama about the British royal family, and "Godless,'' a Western miniseries.
Even as it hit a new high, Netflix was denied the industry's top honors: It failed to win a prize in any of the three most prestigious categories, losing out to rivals HBO, FX and Amazon.com Inc.
HBO, now part of AT&T Inc., won the outstanding drama award for "Game of Thrones,'' a fantasy epic set in the land of Westeros. It was the third time in four years that the show has claimed that prize. HBO also tied Netflix for the most Emmys in total, with 23.
The results at the TV industry's biggest awards show reflect the heightened competition between the traditional TV companies, represented by HBO and FX, and the streaming services. Amazon also made inroads at the event, picking up key comedy awards.
In all, streaming services won 12 of the night's 26 featured awards and 35 in total -- both new highs. Amazon won five of those, including best comedy series, the first time any streaming platform has captured that award.
Amazon won all its prizes for "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," a show about a Jewish housewife in 1950s New York who becomes a standup comic. The program also won statuettes for best-supporting actress in a comedy, best lead actress, best writing and best directing.
The triumphs for Netflix and Amazon come just a year after Hulu became the first streaming service to win the outstanding drama Emmy for "The Handmaid's Tale.'' The adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel was shut out at this year's ceremony.
Web TV services have upended Hollywood over the past few years by spending billions of dollars on programming and pilfering many of the most talented writers and producers from other studios. Netflix boasts the most subscribers of any online TV platform and has also surpassed almost every major media company in how much it spends on entertainment.
The moment was not lost on John Mulaney, who won a prize for his comedy special. Netflix "was a DVD mail-order business 10 years ago -- it's like Columbia House became the biggest studio in the world," Mulaney said, referring to the music subscription business.
Mulaney, a beloved writer and standup comedian, struggled to succeed on broadcast TV but found a home at Netflix. Talent like Mulaney has flocked to the Los Gatos, California-based company because of its promise of creative freedom and substantial budgets.
Actor Kevin Spacey and director David Fincher started the trend with "House of Cards,'' which debuted in 2013. Since then, dozens of writers, producers and filmmakers have followed. Over the past couple of years, top TV creators Ryan Murphy, Jenji Kohan and Shonda Rhimes have committed to making shows only for Netflix.
Murphy won an award Monday night for his directing on FX's "American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace,'' which also earned outstanding limited series. "American Crime Story'' won the same award two years ago for the first installment about the murder trial of O.J. Simpson. FX won five awards Monday, tied for third alongside Amazon.
Netflix and Amazon have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years just campaigning for official recognition from the entertainment industry, which has viewed the companies with a mix of awe, suspicion and -- at times -- contempt. The popularity of Netflix's on-demand service, in particular, has been blamed for the recent struggles of the traditional pay-TV business, which has, in turn, prompted a wave of consolidation among large media companies.
Their pursuit of awards mirrors the strategy employed over the last two decades by HBO, which had earned the most nominations of any network for 18 years in a row (before this one). In addition to "Game of Thrones," HBO also earned awards for the comedy "Barry," the drama "Westworld" and topical comedy show "Last Week Tonight."
"Game of Thrones" was ineligible for the Emmys last year because it aired after the deadline, but this year's winning season debuted more than a year ago. The network will air the final few episodes early next year.
While Netflix may hope for the end of "Game of Thrones," it may not get relief any time soon.
"We do have five prequels in various stages of development," said George R.R. Martin, the bearded author who wrote the fantasy novels on which the series is based. "We're not going to leave Westeros yet."
This article was written by Lucas Shaw, a reporter for The Washington Post.