Netflix Steals the Emmy Nomination Crown from HBO, Ending a 17-Year Streak

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It took Netflix just five years to become king of the Emmy hill. The streaming service has ended HBO’s 17-year dominance as the most-nominated network. In 2018, Netflix landed 112 Emmy nominations, just a hair over HBO’s 108.

Netflix’s rise has been staggering. Last year, the platform landed 91 nominations, 20 behind HBO’s 111. That was up from 54 nominations in 2016 and 34 in 2015. Up until last year, Netflix had garnered a total of 225 nominations (and 43 wins), which means this year’s tally is nearly half of that.

If HBO has any solace, it’s that Netflix hasn’t yet beat its all-time record: 126 nominations in 2015, which remains the best showing ever for a network.

Pundits saw this coming, thanks to Netflix’s sheer volume. The difference between Netflix’s and HBO’s output has been a hot topic of conversation this week, as newly minted WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey infamously warned HBO staffers at a town hall meeting that they needed to broaden out and grow — fast. Although Stankey never mentioned Netflix by name, the implication was clear: To survive, he believes HBO needs to act more like Netflix.

Of course, that triggered a backlash, particularly among critics, who fear that HBO will dilute its brand by trying to be all things to all people. The pay cable network’s brand is quality, and that’s partly why Emmy nominations have been so important to HBO over the years — it was an effective branding tool to remind consumers why they subscribe.

Nonetheless, industry pundits note that HBO isn’t used to so much competition — and that it needs a budget infusion and more programming at-bats in order to stay relevant. The fact that HBO has now fallen behind Netflix in the Emmy nomination tally — even when Netflix’s brand is less about quality, and more about choice — may strengthen Stankey’s argument that HBO needs more, more, more.

HBO was in second place behind Netflix, despite having two of the most-nominated shows this year. The pay cabler’s “Game of Thrones,” which returned as a contender after taking 2017 off, was rewarded with 22 nominations, the most of any series. Also back: “Westworld,” which landed 21 noms in its second season (tied with “Saturday Night Live”). HBO also had one of the most-recognized new series, with “Barry.”

Netflix’s most-nommed series was “The Crown,” at 13 noms, which was fewer than the most-nominated shows for rivals Hulu (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) or Amazon (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”). But Netflix has become a broad outlet, rivaling HBO in key categories where it once dominated, such as limited series and documentaries. Netflix’s roster is diverse: “The Crown,” “GLOW,” “Godless,” “Stranger Things,” “USS Callister (Black Mirror)” were among its top shows. Netflix ultimately landed 40 shows with nominations, compared to HBO’s 23.

Even if Netflix topped this year’s nomination tally, HBO could always still ultimately take home more gold. In 2017, HBO led all networks with 29 wins, followed by Netflix (20).

And also, although Netflix is by far the streaming service tally leader, it hasn’t been able to pull off what rival Hulu did last year: An Emmy outstanding series win — as “The Handmaid’s Tale” won best drama.

Hulu also saw its nomination tally increase from 18 last year to 27 this year. And Amazon, which is now billing itself “Prime Video” at the Emmys, earned 22 nods this year, vs. 16 last year.

On the broadcast side, “Saturday Night Live” (the second-most nominated program, tied with “Westworld”) and great network hope “This Is Us” helped NBC bump up to 78 nominations, up from 63 last year. NBC’s tally is actually higher than CBS (34), ABC (31) and Fox (16) combined.

On the cable front, FX’s 50 nods was slightly down from last year (54), while Showtime landed 21 nods, up from 15. Other networks on the rise include VH1 (12, up from 8), NatGeo (17, up from 15), and CNN (10, up from 7). TNT, which was shut out last year, scored six this year. Networks that continue to be ignored by Emmy voters include USA, at four, which is unchanged (although the network got one marquee nod this year with “The Sinner’s” Jessica Biel), and Starz, at 3 (down from 4 last year).