2014 Emmy Nominations Validate Viewing Format Revolution

Last year, Netflix made history by being the first online-only content producer  ever to be nominated for (and inevitably win) an Emmy award. The trend continued for the provider’s original streaming content, with a Golden Globe win for Robin Wright’s “House of Cards” performance, and a Best Documentary Feature Oscar nomination for “The Square.”

This was big news for Netflix, and even bigger news for showcasing a major shift in how entertainment is consumed. Just a few years ago, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings hedged his bets on streaming and got some bad press for attempting to deprioritize the company’s DVD rental business into a separate division called Flixster. The logic behind that decision was a few years ahead of the industry, but now Netflix’s investments in streaming have paid off.

This year, led by the critically acclaimed debut of “Orange is the New Black” and a second season of “House of Cards,” Netflix original series were nominated for a total of 31 Emmy Awards. That’s a staggering number -- more than double that of last year’s Netflix nominations -- considering how new the concept of high-production-value original streaming content is.



And while Netflix has seemingly staked that “critical darling” claim that HBO once had, it won’t always be the lone success story in streaming. Amazon, Yahoo, and Hulu have dozens of shows currently available and in production. While the level of quality may not be quite up to par with what Netflix is offering, it’s only a matter of time before they start to make waves.

YouTube is another entity to watch. The world’s biggest video repository has aspirations beyond self-published, user-generated content. As recently reported, it’s working to increase its output of high-quality original content. The success of Chromecast, the upcoming Android TV platform, and the ubiquity of smart TVs makes original YouTube content increasingly viable.

Streaming content producers are even finding success where TV failed. Yahoo recently picked up a sixth season of “Community,” Netflix resurrected the Fox-canceled “Arrested Development,” and “The Killing” won’t be airing its final season on AMC. These shows are finding their niche on streaming services, where binge watchers’ preferences are driving new content opportunities that weren’t viable on traditional TV.

How will this change the broadcast and cable-subscriber landscape? There’s signs it already has. HBO, leading the Emmys this year with a staggering 99 nominations, has already given up some of the reins of its content by licensing streaming content to Amazon. That content was tightly controlled via a cable subscription on HBO GO. Will HBO GO, or a similar HBO streaming service, someday become a separate entity? Will it shift to a format-agnostic media mix, or are the ties to cable providers too strong? Even entertaining the possibility was an absurdity just a few years ago, but it seems conceivable now.

It will be fascinating to see how the format shift plays out in the next five years. The tension between cable companies and streaming services will get more palpable as traditional TV content share and critical success continue to be eroded.
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