Netflix Just Took Another Step Closer to Becoming HBO

Source: Netflix.

Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) became an Emmy winner last week, when "House of Cards" took home awards for casting and cinematography. Sunday night brought another award as David Fincher won honors for directing in a drama series.

Skeptics will tell you the win doesn't matter, that to be relevant Netflix had to win one of the "majors," such as outstanding drama series or lead actor or actress. Awards that, on Sunday, went to usual suspects HBO, Showtime, and AMC Networks (NASDAQ: AMCX  ) .

The market would appear to agree. Shares of Netflix fell nearly 4% Monday on a marginally down day. But is it really fair to dismiss Fincher's win? Looking at history, I'm not so sure.

Rewind to 1999 and the first Emmy awards for The Sopranos, HBO's breakthrough original series. Care to guess how many awards the show took home? If you answered four, treat yourself to a golf clap.

Specifically, The Sopranos won Emmys for casting, single-camera editing, and writing. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences also named Edie Falco Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Sound familiar? House of Cards won about as much over the past week, and in similar categories.

Source: HBO.

Yes, it's likely to take years for Netflix to match or even beat what Time Warner   (NYSE: TWX  ) has in HBO. So what? In dismissing Fincher's win, skeptics act as if the gap will never narrow, that this is a chasm that can't be crossed.

Maybe they're right. But before we allow that judgment to sit as gospel, how about rewinding to the night The Sopranos made HBO a perennial Emmy contender? At least one critic begged for change that (at least in a way) has since been realized.

"The quickest and surest way to fix the Emmys is one that television obviously isn't ready to consider yet, judging by last night's results: Give it to cable," Seattle Times television critic Kay Mcfadden wrote of the night's disappointing festivities and results.

Fourteen years later, the gala still airs on a major network -- CBS, this time -- but you could argue that's where broadcast TV's relevance begins and ends when it comes to today's Emmys.

Cable networks have taken over the show in every other respect. HBO, Showtime, AMC. Every one a disruptor being honored for disruptive shows such as The Newsroom, Homeland, and Breaking Bad, which won for Outstanding Drama Series.

They're all on top right now. And they're each equally at risk of being disrupted by Netflix, Amazon.com, and YouTube in the years ahead. Invest accordingly.

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