Of course, I could have been saying this even before “The Sopranos” began on HBO in 1999, but the Golden Globes awards on Sunday must have been a bewildering event for viewers who don’t have a premium content provider.
Amazon Prime’s award for best television comedy for “Transparent” and best comedy actor for that program’s star, Jeffrey Tambor, were the first for that streaming service. (It is an awesome series, and he’s great in it; you ought to see it.) Kevin Spacey from Netflix’s “House of Cards” also won for best actor in a television drama.
Amazon and Netflix both have about 40 million subscribers in the U.S., and very neatly, more than 70% of the households with broadband have streamed a full-length TV program in the last six months. Yet, it’s very likely the majority of people watching NBC’s telecast of the Golden Globes have seen neither of those shows — especially “Transparent.”
There’s nothing shocking about that. For years, awards shows have showered prizes on programs and movies that comparatively few people have seen, and maybe TV in particular. "NCIS" never wins anything. It has been the best-watched TV show for the last five years and is the most popular TV show in the world. To award givers, it's a tub of chopped liver.
But Netflix and Amazon have come out of the blue, more or less. Referring to “Transparent,” The Wall Street Journal’s CMO blog remarked today: “The award is a landmark win for the streaming service, marking its arrival among the elite TV-creators in Hollywood ... By now, media companies have recognized, begrudgingly, that they have to contend with Netflix (‘House of Cards,’ "Orange is the New Black," "Marco Polo," etc.) when it comes to securing the best scripts and talen, and winning over fans and critics. But Sunday night was a reminder that there are actually two Web giants coming after them.”
I’m not so sure media companies needed the reminder.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has already issued a kind of sell-thru date for television networks. They’ll be gone by 2030, he said last year. And yearly, the television awards shows seem to present evidence he’s right. At the Golden Globes, “Jane the Virgin” was the only broadcast network show to win an award (Gina Rodriguez, for best actress in a comedy).
The Golden Globes aren’t the Emmys, but altogether, this was not a great night for commercially-supported programming, which is a more illuminating way for networks and studios to view the ascendancy of Netflix and Amazon and the continued dominance of HBO.
Viewers, in hugely increasing waves, are fully accustomed to television without commercial interruptions and without any kind of schedule. And as more viewers are raised in that environment, network television just isn't going to work right. Now, lack of airtime and lack of advertisers, doesn't mean much.
Indeed, the reason that Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is going to Netflix, though NBC originally commissioned it, is that NBC didn’t have the right time slot. But the idea of a time slot at all just seems so quaint.Maybe that deal could become the model for what will become of network television in the short run: Instead of current broadcast or cable series being sold to Netflix or Hulu or Amazon for second runs, network television could become the place successful online series will get a second life in something that resembles syndication.