If the Emmy Awards are the yardstick for quality television content, the HBO empire has left its biggest competitor, Netflix, in the dust this year at the industry’s most coveted awards show, held Monday in Los Angeles.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, staying in and keeping up to date on the latest TV shows has almost become a sport of sorts, as the landscape of television has transformed and expanded in the era of streaming services: Netflix, HBO Max, Apple TV+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Peacock — who can keep up?

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In the new “platinum age of television,” cable TV has been in free fall, with more families opting out every year — by the end of next year, traditional cable TV subscriptions are expected to drop to less than half of all U.S. households, according to an Insider Intelligence study released earlier this year. From 2016 to 2021, pay TV, aka subscription or cable TV, lost more than 50 million adult viewers or 25.5 million households, posting the steepest drop in 2020 — at the peak of the pandemic, when millions were stuck at home.

About 85% of U.S. households subscribe to at least one streaming service, and the average home subscribes to nearly five, the study’s data shows. 

With cable usurped by the proliferation of streaming services — often marketed in bundles to hedge against audiences’ growing fatigue with the overwhelming range of paid subscriptions — it has become harder to decipher which of these companies is actually winning the “streaming wars.”

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The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences this year chose to extricate itself from this dispute when it refused to tally Emmy nominations by network or service

So we took a stab at it. Here’s what we found out about streaming supremacy in 2022.   

Streaming supremacy 

Netflix scored 105 nominations this year, the least since the streaming giant first netted over 100 nominations in 2019 — the year streaming services firmly established their dominance over network TV with the emergence of Apple TV+ and HBO Max. 

Netflix won 26 Emmys this year, of which only three were in the major, televised categories of acting and directing. Two of those three awards went to “Squid Game,” which made Emmy history as the first foreign-language show to be nominated among the year’s top dramas

However, despite the colossal success of “Squid Game,” “Ozark” and “Stranger Things,” Netflix’s subscriber base is on the decline, and the platform’s Emmys performance is perhaps contributing to that drop. 

In July, Netflix reported a loss of nearly 1 million subscribers in quarter two after shedding 200,000 subscribers the previous quarter. While the company expected to lose 2 million customers, the million-subscription dip was enough for critics to point out the decline in quality programming on Netflix. 

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Netflix’s subscriber base has reduced to less than two-thirds of U.S. TV subscribers, and its market penetration continues to decline, according to Kantar Group, a data analytics company

This decline is backdropped by competing subscription offers from other streaming services offering competing content as the streaming space rapidly matures. 

Visual reporting of local news and trends is partially underwritten by Microsoft Philanthropies. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over this and all its coverage.

HBO Max, which includes content from HBO, scored the most nominations the company has netted since 2019, when the age of streaming services truly arrived. At this year’s Emmys, the network took home wins across the major categories, including top drama “Succession,” and the limited series “The White Lotus” scoring the most Emmys of any show with five wins.  

“Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+ raked in the second most wins for any show with four and held its own in 2022 after earning 20 nominations last year. While the platform’s other original content, including “Severance,” “The Morning Show” and “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” scored nominations in major categories but did not win.  

Nominations for Disney+ content also halved compared with last year, though with the company holding a majority stake in Hulu, viewers who subscribe to the Disney Bundle are still getting their money’s worth of award-winning content. 

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Hulu’s nomination count more than doubled from 2021 to 2022 with 58 nods. Shows like the Purdue Pharma scandal dramatization “Dopesick” and the Theranos drama “The Dropout” winning Monday night in the prized acting categories (Michael Keaton and Amanda Seyfried, respectively, were honored as best lead actor and actress in a limited series). 

If you count the major wins for ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” hailed as a harbinger of network TV’s comeback, which aired on Hulu (and recently expanded to HBO Max and Disney+), the streaming service possibly does offer the best deal. For exclusive content, Hulu’s final win count in the major categories was two, with an additional eight wins in the smaller categories. Between 2019 and 2021, excluding its partnership with FX, the streaming service went winless in major categories. 

With 30 nominations, Amazon Prime Video did not make the top five this year, though it fared better than 2021. The streaming service has not featured in the top five streaming services since 2019, when it scored 47 nominations.

The real dark horse is Showtime, as nominations for the emerging streaming service have more than tripled since last year, led by the buzzworthy cult drama “Yellowjackets.”

“‘Stranger Things’ was hard to watch because it’s so scary. ‘Squid Game’ was hard to watch because it’s so violent,” joked Emmys host and self-proclaimed mayor of television Kenan Thompson at Monday’s ceremony. “Yellowjackets was hard to watch because it’s on Showtime.” 

He’s not wrong. This writer distinctly remembers scrambling to sign up for a Showtime account to catch up to the “Yellowjackets” craze. 

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“Yellowjackets” was the only Showtime program to score a nomination in major categories this year, which is perhaps indicative of the fact that the Emmys are a good marker for estimating a platform’s quality of programming, but the award show is not the only marker determining the success of a TV production house. 

Beyond the gold-winged statuette

Accolades certainly elevate a platform’s prestige, but they do not necessarily translate to a growth in audiences or commercial success. Further, with quality TV shows being churned out seemingly every other week, it’s harder than ever to earn hardware for television excellence. 

“It’s the most coveted television accolade in the planet, yet it’s impossible to win one,” said Oprah Winfrey at the start of the ceremony. “There are 8 billion people on this planet but only 25 Emmys to be given out tonight,” she continued, quickly estimating the odds to be 300 million to 1. 

Those odds often seem worse for people of color on television. 

A few years after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, a tally of the race of Emmy wins in the leading categories of acting and directing shows the Television Academy still has a ways to go. Seven people of color won major categories Monday night, including three in acting categories. 

“When I was a little girl, all I wanted to see was me in the media — someone fat like me, Black like me, beautiful like me,” said an emotional Lizzo, accepting the competition program award for “Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls.” 

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“If I could go back and tell little Lizzo something, I’d be like, ‘You’re going to see that person, but [expletive], it’s going to have to be you.'”

Moments later, Academy chair and CEO Frank Scherma lauded FX’s and Hulu’s “Reservation Dogs” and Peacock’s “We Are Lady Parts” as shows that “reflect the personal experience of people who make them,” but neither scored a nomination this year. 

Elsewhere, Sheryl Lee Ralph of “Abbott Elementary” became the second Black woman in 35 years to win the Emmy for supporting comedic actress, while show creator Quinta Brunson became the second Black woman ever honored by the Academy for writing a comedy

“I am an endangered species,” Ralph belted while accepting her Emmy, quoting a Dianne Reeves verse. “But I sing no victim’s song. I am a woman, I am an artist. And I know where my voice belongs.”

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Perhaps the most searing remark on the challenges of representation at the Emmys came from Hwang Dong-hyuk, who was honored for directing Netflix’s cultural sensation megahit, “Squid Game.” He and the show’s star, outstanding lead actor in a drama Lee Jung-jae, are the first Asians to win Emmys in their respective categories

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“I truly hope ‘Squid Game’ won’t be the last non-English series to be here at the Emmys,” Dong-hyuk said after acknowledging the role his peers at the Television Academy played in netting the show its 14 nominations and two major wins. “And I truly hope this won’t be my last Emmy, either.” 

With a slew of big-ticket shows like “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (Amazon Prime Video), “House of The Dragon” (HBO), “The Sandman” (Netflix) and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” (Disney+) eschewing old norms for diverse casting choices this year, the increasingly inclusive race for streaming dominance continues, with no winner yet determined. 

As HBO rides a wave of winning momentum, Netflix stumbles to keep up and other competitors quickly gain ground, the only clear winner, really, is the audience — mildly fatigued, but mostly spoiled for choice, with more great shows to binge than ever.