Ten Years Of The Emmys: A Power Shift In The Quality Of TV

emmy comparison power shift
The Emmys are once again upon us as the nominees for awards have been announced.

Given that the TV landscape is constantly changing, we decided to take a look nominations from ten years back—the year 2003, if you do the math—and compare those nominees along with the companies that distributed them.

So we could see just where the good stuff is coming from—and what that trend might suggest.

First, we had to define the various offerings. Of course, back in the stone ages of 2003, there were the traditional over-the-air networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, etc.), along with cable programming in the form of premium content (HBO, Showtime, etc.) and basic cable offerings (TNT, USA, A&E, Bravo.) 

And, recently, internet providers like Hulu and Netflix have begun to generate content worthy of consideration.

What we found had happened in the last decade was the rise of basic cable, and here comes the internet—namely Netflix.  Here’s a quick glance at the eye-openers and jaw-droppers from our comparison:

DRAMA SERIES—Competition from basic cable and HELLO, NETFLIX!
Back in ’03, the networks still had somewhat of a stronghold in drama—with three of the five nominations going to traditional over-the-air networks, and the remaining two going to the always drama-strong HBO.

Oh, but what a difference a decade makes. Only one network program was nominated, premium cable held at two nominations—but BASIC cable & Netflix make up wholly half of the nominations after garnering zero a decade ago.

Dramatically speaking, the networks have been cancelling and moving away from network drama in place of cheaper-to-produce and broader appealing reality and competition shows.

Basic cable and now Netflix have rushed into the void to create shows of very high quality that can draw an audience networks would find unattractive but cable entities find extremely viable.

REALITY/COMPETITION—Network domination has been voted off the island.
Network domination of reality shows and competition programs was complete in 2003, Emmy-wise. ALL FIVE of the nominees were from traditional over-the-air networks.

The subsequent ten years have seen an explosion of this type of programming. And, the nominees list reflects that. Although the networks still have four of the six nominees, basic cable commands two from the category as all providers scurry to jump on—and take part in—the reality/competition bandwagon until it starts to wane.

And, there’s currently no sign of that happening.

COMEDY ACTORS & ACTRESSES—The networks aren’t laughing. Not one bit.
HALF of the programs nominated for best comedy are from basic cable or the internet. Lead actress took a complete 360 turn since 2003. Back then, four network actresses and one premium cable actress was nominated for best lead actress in a comedy. This year four premium and only two networks were nominated.

Lead actor and supporting actor also saw huge advances by basic cable and Netflix. The only category where the cycle was reversed is best supporting actress in a comedy, where network programs garnered six of the seven nominations.

DRAMA ACTORS & ACTRESSES—Dramatic turnarounds as cable embraces drama.
Three network actors were nominated for best lead actor in a drama in 2003, with only ONE in 2013. Premium cable kept its two nominations from a decade ago—but big advances were made by basic cable (with two nominations)
and Netflix (one nomination) raising the bar for internet providers.

Best lead actress in a drama also saw half its nominations going to basic cable and Netflix. Indicating the continued parity secondary providers are bringing to bear against the traditional networks and premium cable offerings.

NETFLIX IS A GAME CHANGER—With quality series and the adoption of Arrested Development.
Who’d have thought it? Shows being nominated for an Emmy that have never seen a second of broadcast time or been shown over cable.

But that’s the world we’re in with Netflix and their unprecedented 14 Emmy nominations. How’d they do it? Two ways.

First, Netflix has generated some competitive, quality programming. Kevin Spacey in House Of Cards is riveting television in the caliber of the finest premium cable programs.

Second, they made the very smart decision to leverage the return of a proven hit, Arrested Development—a show that fits in nicely with Netflix’s huge library of past content.

So now, you don’t need a network outlet in the traditional sense to get great content to the masses. And, the Netflix/Hulu example proves that if your content is good, there will be purveyors out there (with more each day) ready to distribute it.

What do these trends mean for the future of television? Will the drama become the sole property of cable and internet? Will networks be able to compete with niche programming or will they be the most generalized and mass distribution points for shows like American Idol that also require a mass appeal?

Discuss amongst yourselves. And while you do? Just remember that we know what’s on all the time everywhere. And we can help you know this, too. Just click below.

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