July 18, 2013

Internet shows its muscle by making Emmy history

'House of Cards' becomes the first online series to nab a top nomination, and 'Arrested Development' also earns nods.

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The Emmy Awards are television's biggest celebration of itself, but this year's ceremony will face an intruder: "House of Cards," the first online series to nab a top nomination with its best drama series.

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This image released by Netflix shows Kevin Spacey as U.S. Congressman Frank Underwood in a scene from the Netflix original series, "House of Cards." Spacey was nominated for an Emmy Award for best actor in a drama series.

AP

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This publicity image released by HBO shows Emilia Clarke in a scene from "Game of Thrones." The program was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding drama series. Clarke was also nominated for best supporting actress.

AP

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Netflix's triumph on Thursday, which includes nods for its revival of "Arrested Development," is putting a further squeeze on the broadcast networks that already have lost substantial Emmy ground to cable. New network offerings were almost completely shut out and, like last year, no network drama made the nominations cut.

Kevin Spacey, the nominated star of the political drama "House of Cards," reveled in its impressive nine bids and role as a groundbreaker.

It's "really, in many ways, kind of a new paradigm," he said. "It's just a great, great thing for all of us."

The major networks, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, likely have a different viewpoint. Cable channels over the year have sharply eroded their share of the audience, and now the Internet is nibbling away and will only become more robust as viewers turn increasingly to computers and other devices to consume video.

A 6-year-old TV academy rules change allows online entries to compete with cable and broadcast programs, but until Thursday online shows popped up only in lower-profile categories.

"It's really groundbreaking," said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix. "It's beyond our most bold expectations. We were thinking a single nomination would be a win... It's as much a win for Internet television as it is for the content creators."

Networks still field the most-watched series — such as top-rated series "NCIS" and the 20 million-plus viewers it delivers weekly to CBS — and enjoy the rich opportunities they represent.

"There's nothing more profitable than having a big broadcast television hit that can be exploited on multiple platforms," including syndication and online, said Garth Ancier, a former executive for both broadcast networks and cable.

But when the Emmys are presented this fall on CBS, it will surely be irritating to serve as a promotional vehicle for the competition. The ceremony rotates among the big four broadcasters who, with the exception of basically flat NBC, saw their number of Emmy bids decline this year.

Besides the showing by Netflix, the leading number of nominations went to a cable miniseries, FX's "American Horror Story: Asylum." HBO fielded the next top nominees: "Game of Thrones" with 16 nods and the Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra" earned 15 nominations.

NBC's "Saturday Night Live" came in with 15 as well, but it, outgoing "30 Rock" (also NBC, 13 bids) and "Modern Family" (ABC, 12 nominations) had the only impressive tallies for broadcast.

The bonanza of nominations for "Game of Thrones" is the swords-and-fantasy show's most-ever and includes a best drama series nod and three acting bids, including one for Peter Dinklage.

Recognition went to a number of other primarily big-screen actors who have migrated to TV for powerhouse projects, with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon for "Under the Candelabra" among them.

Joining "House of Cards" and "Game of Thrones" in the best drama series category are "Breaking Bad," ''Downton Abbey," ''Mad Men" and last year's winner, "Homeland."

"Mad Men," which last year missed out on the best drama trophy that would have been its record-setting fifth, eclipsing fellow four-time winners "Hill Street Blues," ''L.A. Law" and "The West Wing," gets another shot this year.

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