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House of Cards on Netflix
House of Cards on Netflix

How a handful of Emmy nominations turned Netflix into a TV heavy-hitter overnight Add to ...

All of a sudden, Netflix is a major player in the TV business.

Formerly regarded as the preferred TV content delivery system of shut-ins and college students, the online streaming service suddenly has instant clout courtesy of 14 Emmy nominations.

For the first time, Netflix earned nominations in all the major Emmy drama categories and in the process has effectively stolen the thunder of its American network and cable counterparts, if not the traditional TV medium itself.

The Netflix standout in the Emmy sweepstakes was the original series House of Cards, which collected nine nominations, including the high-profile honour of being nominated for best drama against the cable heavyweights Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Homeland, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.

No more red-mailer envelopes for Netflix. This online service has arrived.

“It’s very validating for Internet television,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told reporters shortly after the nominations were announced Thursday morning. “Television is not defined by how it gets to the screen. It’s defined by what’s on the screen.”

Adapted from a U.K. miniseries that aired way back in 1990, House of Cards also earned lead-actor nominations for Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, who portray the Washington power couple on the series. A two-time Oscar-winner, Spacey credited House of Card’s breakout Emmy validation to the fact that all 13 first-season episodes were released simultaneously last February.

“The way in which it has been distributed is really in line with the way in which audiences have been discovering their entertainment over the last number of years,” Spacey told The Wrap. “You ask anybody what they did over the weekend, and they say, ‘I stayed home and watched two seasons of Breaking Bad’.”

Tampa Bay Times TV critic and media reporter Eric Deggans likened Netflix’s newfound Emmy recognition to the 1999 Emmy Awards, in which HBO’s The Sopranos picked up seven nominations for its first season.

“It was a sign there was something that could appear in the premium cable space that would rival the broadcast networks for Emmy nominations,” said Deggans. “Now people are used to cable shows dominating the drama categories and broadcast networks doing better in comedy.”

To that end, Netflix also earned three nominations for its reboot of the long-defunct Fox sitcom Arrested Development, including a nod to Jason Bateman for lead actor in a comedy series. To the chagrin of hardcore Development fans, the show was not named in the category of Best Comedy Series.

Netflix also earned two technical category nominations for the horror series Hemlock Grove, which was recently renewed for a second season. The recently-launched, and already much-admired, Netflix original series Orange is the New Black will not be up for Emmy consideration until next year.

The dominant player in the Emmy sweepstakes remains HBO, which pulled in a staggering 108 nominations–27 more than last year–followed in turn by CBS and NBC with 53 nominations apiece.

But the Netflix nominations landslide is still being hailed as a turning point in TV history. The upcoming Emmy ceremony will mark the very first time programs not produced specifically for television have earned Emmy nominations in the top categories.

“It certainly is a marker of the new era,” said TV historian and former broadcast executive Tim Brooks. “It will send shock waves through the industry.”

But in the bigger picture, Spacey believes that what’s good for Netflix is great for the TV business.

“It’s a great thing,” Spacey told the Associated Press, “because more shows will get produced, more writers will get hired, more actors will get hired, more directors will get hired, more production will happen in this industry and that’s a good thing economically as well as artistically.”

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards air September 22 on CBS and CTV.

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