Programming

Netflix Holds Trump 'Cards' in Likely Emmy Milestone

Show expected to claim first nomination by a Web-distributed hopeful 6/10/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

In 2002, FX’s The Shield broke a huge
basic cable barrier when Michael
Chiklis won the best performance by
an actor primetime Emmy award. Many
industry experts expect another bit of
Emmy history to be made this year when
Netflix’s House of Cards receives the first
Emmy nomination for a show that is distributed
exclusively via the Internet.

Even if House of Cards is not nominated
as one of the past season’s best dramas, it’s
highly likely the series—with its movie-star
performances and stellar production values—will be nominated in some category,
with odds-on favorites being outstanding
drama, best actor or best cinematography.
The category of nomination aside, this
would mark an important television first.

It’s a possibility the Los Angeles-based
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
has been prepared for since 2008, when its
board changed the rules to accommodate
shows distributed over the Web.

“In terms of the Emmy awards structure,
this really hasn’t been a radical response
to what you might call a radical
innovation in the way programming is
made, delivered and consumed,” says
John Leverence, ATAS senior VP of
awards. “The Academy learned this lesson
way back when it first confronted cable.”

TV industry vets will remember that
cable-only shows used to be celebrated
by the CableACE Awards, put together by
the National Cable Television Association
before being voted out of existence after
1997. ATAS had allowed cable shows to be
included in the Emmys as early as 1988,
but it took nine more years before the industry
realized there was no longer a need
for two separate sets of awards.

“At the time that cable came in, there had
been extensive discussions year after year
on the board of governors as to whether
or not there should be categories set up to
reflect delivery systems,” says Leverence.
“The board firmly made the decision that
we would stick to the genre categorization
and not go over into delivery systems.”

With that groundwork laid, ATAS was
ready when Netflix upended the TV landscape
by offering all 13 episodes of House
of Cards
at once, something that had never
been done before in television. While that
was a radical—and much-discussed—
move for most of television, it was businessas-
usual for Netflix.

“It didn’t make sense to us to not offer
every episode at once, when literally every
other show on our service is offered all
at once,” says Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief
content officer. “Our subscribers like to
watch more than one episode at a time,
and some of them literally watch them
all in one sitting, although I wouldn’t
recommend that. Offering all 13 episodes
at once is very symbolic of how
people watch our service.”

Sarandos is similarly philosophical
when it comes to the burning question
of why Netflix won’t release its streaming
data, which would allow the world
at large to see for themselves whether
Netflix’s original series have in fact been
embraced by the masses.

“Broadcast television has an instant feedback
loop in the form of overnight ratings,
and I don’t think that’s been great for the
creation of content,” says Sarandos. “We
want people to watch the content that we
are putting on, and we want to get away
from overnight ratings driving the creative.

“Our business model is really live-plus- five-years,” Sarandos continues. “We don’t
compete with broadcast or cable networks
for ad dollars, channel position or carriage
fees. I’ve just got to put on great content
that our consumers love, or they cancel.”

As a result of that philosophy, how widely
viewed House of Cards—and Netflix’s
other two original series releases over the
past year, Hemlock Grove and Arrested Development
have been remains unknown.
But critical response to House of Cards, especially,
has been strongly positive, with
many critics considering the show to be a
real Emmy contender this year.

Should House of Cards garner a nomination,
it will likely join such other wellpedigreed
series as last year’s winner,
Showtime’s Homeland, as well as AMC’s
four-time winner, Mad Men, and that
network’s critically adored Breaking Bad;
along with HBO’s Game of Thrones and
Boardwalk Empire. PBS’ Downton Abbey
also is likely to score a repeat nom after
an especially dramatic third season.

“Season three was a real roller coaster,”
says Gareth Neame, managing director
of NBC-owned Carnival Films and
Downton Abbey’s executive producer. For
many, that’s an understatement considering
season three’s dramatic character
deaths. “I think all of that drama enhanced
enjoyment of the show for audiences.
What people have grown to love
about the show was never stronger than
in season three. We gave audiences extraordinary
moments.”

Besides House of Cards, other newcomers
also could vie for contention, including
FX’s The Americans and HBO’s The Newsroom.
Other possibilities are FX’s Peabodywinner
Justified and a broadcast TV entry,
CBS’ two-time nominee The Good Wife.

“It’s going to be a very distinguished
list of nominees,” says Leverence. “We
can guarantee that from the excellent field of contenders.”

On the comedy side, Netflix also has a
chance to make history with its reboot of
Arrested Development
, which aired on Fox
from 2003-06 and won the Emmy for outstanding
comedy in its first season.

Arrested Development faces tough competition,
including ABC’s three-time winner
Modern Family. If Modern Family can
bring home a fourth statue, it will match
comedy greats All in the Family and Cheers.

Last year’s nominees, CBS’ The Big Bang
Theory
, NBC’s 30 Rock (which already has
won three best comedy series trophies and
just finished its final season) and HBO’s
Girls and Veep also have good chances of
earning repeat nominations. HBO’s Curb
Your Enthusiasm
, nominated seven times,
is not in the mix this year.

Other potential nominees include FX’s
Louie, which won the Emmy last year for
outstanding writing; NBC’s critically beloved
Parks & Recreation; and Showtime’s
Episodes and Nurse Jackie. Dark horse
possibilities include NBC’s Community
and ABC’s The Middle.

No matter what happens, the huge
changes that have taken place in the TV
industry in the past year also are shaking
things up creatively, and the real winners
in that score are viewers.

Says Leverence: “Anytime you have a
disruption of the status quo with new technology,
you get starbursts of innovation.”

E-mail comments to
palbiniak@gmail.com and follow her
on Twitter: @PaigeA

September
October