If we're counting statues, Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) got hosed on Sunday night.
The leading video service was up for 14 Emmy nominations across Netflix originals House of Cards, Hemlock Grove, and Arrested Development, but nearly walked away empty-handed. There were a pair of "creative arts" nods for outstanding casting and cinematography on House of Cards a week earlier, but then David Fincher nabbed the Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series award for House of Cards.
The night -- and the experiment -- was redeemed.
The freedom that Netflix provided Fincher in making the series in which the episodes didn't have to be uniform in length could be a big selling point in attracting other big names to Netflix's widening checkbook. As pay-TV growth stalls, limiting what traditional content outlets are willing to pay, Netflix is the one with the upside to ramp up its spending on new programming. Sunday night's win by Fincher ices the platform, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Hulu and Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) join Netflix on Emmy ballots sooner rather than later.
However, Fincher's win wasn't the only reason Netflix was last night's biggest winner. After all, Time Warner's HBO led the way with seven of the 26 Emmys handed out on Sunday night.
No, the reason Netflix was the top dog on Sunday night is because so many of the "We have to see this" conversations that erupted in millions of homes across the country will end with subscriptions to Netflix.
A lot of the nominations have earlier seasons available on Netflix. Beyond House of Cards, of course, we find Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Top of the Lake, 30 Rock, and Louie are among the growing number of shows available in Netflix's digital catalog. If any of the shows aren't available as streams -- don't worry -- Netflix has it on DVD. Now, it's true that Netflix's DVD subscribers have been falling sequentially for more than two years. We're now down to fewer than 8 million members paying for discs by mail, compared to the 36.3 million homes worldwide signed up to the flagship streaming smorgasbord. However, the days when Amazon.com or brick-and-mortar retailers were the big winners on Emmy night because they would lead to a spike in DVD sales is all but over. Why buy something that can only be seen once when you can either rent the series or stream at your own pace?
Amazon isn't crying, of course. It can point to Downton Abbey in its streaming arsenal, the hit BBC show for which it wrestled exclusivity away from Netflix earlier this year.
It's ironic. With every passing year, this annual prime-time television awards show is a bigger advertisement for the platform that threatens its traditional existence.
Well played, Netflix.
From show awards to shareholder rewards
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