UPDATED: In a nail-biting race between HBO and Netflix through 118 Emmy categories, it came down to the final one. When Game of Thrones was announced as best drama series, it gave HBO the win it needed to tie Netflix for most Emmys this year. Each network nabbed 23 statuettes overall in the three Primetime Emmy ceremonies. During the main telecast tonight, Netflix edged HBO with seven-to-six victories.
This marks the first time Netflix has topped the rankings for most Emmy wins after taking third place in 2016 and rising to No.2 last year. The achievement also follows an upset at the nominations stage where Netflix topped longtime leader HBO for the first time.
“We are honored to share this night with our friends at HBO, who have paved the way for years by setting the highest possible standard,” Netflix’s VP Original Series Cindy Holland said.
Added HBO CEO Richard Plepler, “It’s a wonderful evening for us, but it’s an even better evening for the range of quality great work being recognized in the industry.”
Ironically, Netflix, the oldest and the biggest of the top three streamers, is the only one yet to win the top drama and series categories. Hulu was the first last year with The Handmaid’s Tale, which was named best drama. Amazon followed this year with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, winner for best comedy series.
It was a big night for Mrs. Maisel, which won five Emmys in the main telecast (eight overall). FX’s limited series Versace: American Crime Story was second with three (seven overall). But there was little love for last year’s big drama winner, The Handmaid’s Tale, which was shut out completely tonight, as was FX’s Atlanta.
“I’m such a Mrs. Maisel fan and feel so lucky to have inherited this show,” new Amazon head Jennifer Salke said.
Just five and a half years after officially entering the original scripted series space with the launch of House Of Cards, Netflix led the Emmy nominations network pack for the first time this year with a total of 112 noms, up from 91 last year and 54 in 2016. It ended HBO’s 17-year streak as No.1. Paced by Game Of Thrones, HBO was a close second with 108 nominations.
Then came the Creative Arts Emmys where we saw a very close race, in which HBO and Netflix finished neck and neck for most wins: HBO was No.1 with 17 and Netflix right behind it with 16.
That led to tonight’s thriller where the lead switched back and forth between HBO and Netflix. The streamer had the upper hand in the final stretch until the GOT three-peat as best drama series in the final minutes of the ceremony. (HBO also won for sci-fi drama Westworld and comedy series Barry.)
How was nerve-wracking were the night for HBO executives? “A little bit, but we had dragons, robots and comedic assassins on our side,” said HBO programming president Casey Bloys.
While the comedy series race was dominated by Mrs. Maisel and only featured two shows — both freshmen — Maisel and Barry, the wealth was spread around on the drama side with wins for HBO’s GOT and Westworld, Netflix’s The Crown and a farewell recognition for FX’s The Americans.
Netflix’s Emmy ascent punctuates the streaming upstart’s enormous push in original content. It has been outspending all its rivals on programming — Netflix’s annual budget has grown every year to $8 billion in 2018 — and on Emmy campaign with an elaborate FYC space the last two years.
This year, Netflix made Emmy gains in new areas — the reality space with the Queer Eye revival, which won best Structured Reality TV series 14 years after the original won a Best Reality Show Emmy, and in the limited series category with Godless.
Meanwhile, HBO did not have a big limited series contender of the likes of Big Little Lies this year but will be back in the race next year with multiple contenders, including Sharp Objects and True Detective.
With Netflix not showing signs of slowing down, AT&T vowing to amp up HBO’s volume, Amazon pouring resources into its Prime Video service, and Hulu and FX soon to be controlled Disney, the battle for Emmy supremacy may only be beginning.
That will put even more pressure on the broadcast networks that carry the Emmys. They were in retreat mode again only and scored only two wins tonight, NBC for sketch comedy series (SNL) and ABC for variety special directing (The Oscars).