With historic wins for The Crown for Outstanding Drama Series and The Queen’s Gambit for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series on Sunday, Netflix has clinched the most wins by any streaming service or network at the 2021 Emmys.
The total of 44 Emmys in a single year ties a record set by CBS in 1974.
In another milestone, with Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso named Outstanding Comedy Series, for the first time ever, the night’s three biggest trophies, Drama, Comedy and Limited or Anthology Series, all went to streaming services, punctuating the changing of the guard.
Streamers dominated the network/platform rankings. Following Netflix are HBO/HBO Max with 19 Emmys, Disney+ with 14 and Apple TV+ (10). Of the broadcast networks, NBC, fueled by Saturday Night Live, scored the best with 7 Emmys, including one tonight. CBS, which carried the Emmys this year, was shut out completely.
Heading into tonight, the market-share title seemed all but assured based on Netflix’s performance at last weekend’s Creative Arts ceremony. The streaming giant started tonight with 34 wins already in the bag and picked up another 10 along the way. In all, The Crown and Queen’s Gambit had 11 wins each, with seven of The Crown‘s trophies received tonight.
The Drama Series and Limited or Anthology Series categories — both won by Netflix — closed out the show. The two-fer marks the first time Netflix, the first streamer to enter the Emmy race in earnest and the largest player in the SVOD space with 209 million global subscribers, has ever won a series category. Between 2013 and 2020, Netflix had racked up 30 nominations in best drama, comedy and limited series without prevailing.
Apple TV+ was the other digital headline, grabbing Outstanding Comedy Series among seven Emmys for Ted Lasso. The Comedy Series win for Ted Lasso makes the streaming platform the fastest to get a series win, in just its second year of eligibility. Apple has perhaps been the most secretive of any company in revealing any indications of the performance of Apple TV+. Like Apple Music, iCloud and other services, the streaming outlet is meant to be part of the overall value proposition of Apple, so the company has not broken out any specs, even at a show-by-show level.
Netflix and Apple TV+ join Hulu and Amazon as streamers that have cracked the top Emmy series categories. Hulu was previously the only streaming platform with a best drama win, for The Handmaid’s Tale in 2017. Amazon Prime Video has taken home best comedy honors for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Fleabag.
Streaming became a way of life during the pandemic, with people spent most of their time at home consuming more streaming content than ever over the past year and a half. Companies also shifted ever more toward digital and away from linear, making it not entirely surprising to see SVOD platforms topping the rankings.
The overall streaming story reflects a dramatic increase in contenders over the past two years. Since November 2019, at least seven major streaming services have hit the market (including Paramount+, the expansion and rebrand of the six-year-old CBS All Access).
The 2021 network tally proved a major reversal of 2020, when HBO topped the list with 30 Emmys and Netflix captured 21. (HBO Max launched in May 2020, shortly before the end of last year’s eligibility period.)
Following the historic tie in 2018, when both HBO and Netflix scored 23 wins, HBO had reasserted itself at the top of the winners list with stronger nomination conversion record than its streaming rival. For instance, last year, HBO topped Netflix in Emmy wins after the WarnerMedia network had trailed Netflix at the nomination stage 107 to 160.
One administrative decision is reflected in this year’s tallies. HBO opted for a combined HBO/HBO Max total in the upstart WarnerMedia streamer’s second year in Emmy contention. The move helped at the nomination stage where HBO/HBO Max edged out Netflix (130 to 129 nominations), with HBO Max series like Hacks and The Flight Attendant scoring slew of noms for their first seasons.
HBO Max had a strong showing at the main telecast with three wins for Hacks helping the combined total, along with two wins for Mare Of Easttown. However, Covid production delays deprived HBO of several major contenders this year, including last year’s big drama winner, Succession, and a multiple winner in Barry.
Disney+ led WarnerMedia’s HBO/HBO Max after last Sunday, 13 wins to 10, but stalled out tonight apart from a win for Hamilton in Best Variety Special (Pre-recorded).
The pandemic-driven streaming boom is reflected in this year’s Emmys even though last year’s ceremony was fully remote and felt more quintessentially 2020. While its subscriber growth has flattened in some territories in recent months, Netflix has added tens of millions of subscribers since the pandemic began. The global nature of its operations also enabled the company to maintain a production pipeline, albeit somewhat diminished, even as many rivals faced more widespread shutdowns.
The other notable win by a streaming service during this month’s Emmys was recorded last weekend by ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV, for distributing the MTV documentary feature 76 Days. The win by the free ad-supported streaming platform is a first in Emmy history. The slate of a streaming service that didn’t survive the battlefield, Quibi, mustered one last Emmy win. J.B. Smoove took it for his performance in Mapleworth Murders.
Quibi mustered a handful of Emmys last year on the eve of the Jeffrey Katzenberg-created mobile startup’s flameout. Mapleworth Murders, along with dozens of other Quibi-nurtured titles, can now be seen for free on the Roku Channel after Roku acquired a tranche of programming from Quibi in January.
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