Netflix is the cool kid at the Emmys
When Emmy nominations were released on July 10, "Game of Thrones" reigned supreme with 19 nods and "Fargo" - don'cha know - was right behind it with 18. But the hands-down winner was Netflix, which amassed 31 nominations.
That's more than the Fox network. That's more than all but two cable networks, FX and HBO. That's more than any outlet would be expected to collect after just two full seasons of original programming.
"It's got the buzz, the mojo, the cool factor that it took more than a decade for cable TV to get," said Tom O'Neil, who runs GoldDerby.com, the top predictor of showbiz awards.
In fact, it took HBO nearly 16 years of producing its own material before it became a major player at the Emmys, finally breaking through in the late '90s with "The Sopranos" and the miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon."
Netflix, which notched only one win last year for David Fincher's directing of the "House of Cards" pilot, is in a much stronger position this time around.
Gold Derby editors believe Robin Wright has an 80 percent chance of victory in the best dramatic actress category for her Lady Macbeth-inspired performance in "House of Cards," and Ricky Gervais is a slight favorite to edge William H. Macy ("Shameless") and Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory") in the best comedic actor race for his surprisingly sentimental turn in "Derek."
"Orange Is the New Black," which led all comedies with 12 nominations, is certain to make some sort of splash, even if it's only in the guest supporting actress category, where it owns three of the six slots, with Uzo Aduba being the clear front-runner.
But Netflix isn't only playing a role in its own shows. O'Neil believes that "Breaking Bad" and "Game of Thrones" picked up steam in later seasons largely because people were using the streaming service to watch past episodes.
"By the time people caught up, those shows were cool," he said.
Netflix's decision to switch its emphasis from DVD-by-mail to streaming and adding original content has paid off financially, too.
According to Forbes, Netflix revenues since 2007 have risen an average of 23.6 percent a year to $4.4 billion. The company is expected to deliver new earnings results on Monday.
Netflix gains are the networks' woes, at least once it comes to awards season. For the third season in a row, not a single show from the five major broadcasters earned a nod in the outstanding drama category. Many would argue, with good reason, that "The Good Wife" deserved a spot this year. But the truth is that Emmy voters want to go to the dance with the bad boy - and right now, that isn't CBS.
"There's an upscale snob factor across the board," said O'Neil, pointing out that "The West Wing" and "L.A. Law" were Emmy favorites, while a blue-collar comedy like "Roseanne" was largely ignored. "Netflix can do 'House of Cards,' which, like 'The Sopranos,' is a dangerous show to market. Meanwhile, networks have to play to the lowest denominator with crime procedurals."
If Netflix is enjoying a moment, it should also remember that being cool lasts only so long. For all we know, next year's party could be celebrating Hulu.