Netflix Inc. earned the most Emmy nominations of any network Tuesday, beating HBO for the second time in three years and signaling the growing power of streaming in the TV industry.
“Watchmen,” the HBO drama inspired by Alan Moore’s comic-book series about aging superheroes, had the most nominations among individual shows, with 26, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences said. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a comedy on Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video, had 20.
A diversity of programs buoyed Netflix, which set an Emmy record with 160 total nominations. “Ozark,” a gritty crime drama, earned the most nominations of any Netflix show with 18 and was one of 10 programs that captured at least five nominations for the service.
The nominations for TV’s best programming have become an annual race between the fast-growing Netflix and AT&T Inc.’s HBO network, which is perennially viewed as the go-to network for serious drama. The academy has handed Netflix hundreds of nominations over the past few years, but has yet to give the streaming service its top prizes, including best drama, comedy or miniseries.
While the Emmys aren’t as popular as the Oscars or Grammys, the annual awards show still provides a promotional platform for the nominees and winners. The nominations have also reflected the longer-term shift from broadcast networks to cable and now to streaming. Six of the 16 most-nominated networks were streaming services, led by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Walt Disney Co.’s Hulu.
Newer entrants Disney+, Apple TV+ and Quibi all earned their first nominations, including 15 nods for “The Mandalorian,” the Star Wars series from Disney+ that has been the biggest hit on any of the new streaming services.
Walt Disney earned the second-most nominations of any corporation thanks to its ownership of Disney+, Hulu, ABC, FX Networks, NatGeo, ESPN and the Disney Channel. It trailed only Netflix.
As streaming services have proliferated over the past few years, they have spent tens of millions of dollars in pursuit of awards that can entice new customers to subscribe. No one has chased Emmys quite like Netflix, which sends elaborate and expensive mailers of DVDs to academy members, and hosts weeks of screenings and promotional events to charm the voters.
AT&T is pushing hard into streaming this year, with the launch of its HBO Max platform, and could use the added momentum of Emmy nominations to bolster its subscriber drive.
The four major U.S. broadcast networks collected all the top Emmy awards until the turn of the century, at which point cable networks led by HBO, AMC and FX started to peel away top prizes, particularly in drama. NBC and ABC still earned the third- and fourth-most nominations, respectively, but the four broadcast networks combined garnered fewer than Netflix.
The coronavirus has altered the traditional awards season, pushing the campaigns and events to virtual settings. Comedian Leslie Jones hosted the nomination announcement with help from Laverne Cox, Josh Gad and Tatiana Maslany, all of whom appeared via webcast.
Jimmy Kimmel will host this year’s Emmy awards ceremony, set to air on ABC on Sept. 20. It’s not yet clear what the format will be, given the limitations on large gatherings imposed by covid-19.