The recent Emmy awards were historic for a number of reasons. Four of the seven programs nominated for the top award, Outstanding Drama Series, hailed from video streaming services. While many believed that Netflix, Inc. (NFLX -0.41%) would be a shoo-in, with Stranger Things, The Crown, and House of Cards all nominated in the category, it was smaller rival Hulu that pulled off the upset with its dystopian drama The Handmaid's Tale, taking home a total of eight awards for the program. 

Hulu, which is owned by Disney (DIS -2.17%), Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX) (FOXA), Comcast (CMCSA -1.34%), and Time Warner (TWX) has long been viewed as the underdog in the streaming wars. Taking home the top trophy for a major award has firmly established the platform as a viable competitor to its larger rivals, Netflix and, Inc. (AMZN -1.30%), and while Hulu won, that doesn't necessarily mean that the other two lost. It was, in fact, a win for streaming in general.

Hand holding remote while TV appears to project multiple options into the surrounding air.

Streaming video is gaining greater acceptance. Image source: Getty Images.

Streaming gains broad acceptance

In 2013, Netflix original House of Cards became the first streaming program to both be nominated and win an Emmy award. This was among the initial milestones that demonstrated streaming could produce quality content that could compete with the best that linear and cable TV had to offer. Fast forward to today, and original programs from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu garnered over 125 nominations between them at this year's Emmy's, lending further credibility to the quality of their content offerings. 

Streaming providers are spending voraciously in a bid to attract subscribers. Netflix plans to spend $6 billion on content this year, Amazon will devote $4.5 billion, and Hulu will invest $2.5 billion. While spending doesn't necessarily equate to quality, it's clear that the services are trying to achieve what could become a self-perpetuating cycle. Attracting top talent in Hollywood will more likely result in future awards and critical acclaim, boosting future subscribers, which will fund the search for more top talent, and so on.

There can be only one! (or not)

While the prevailing wisdom says that there will be only one streaming winner, data from multiple consumer surveys suggests otherwise.

A recent survey by Morning Consult found that 48% of U.S. viewers, aged 18 to 29 years old, said they were subscribed to two or more streaming services. Among all respondents, 52% subscribed to Netflix, and this figure grew to 67% among millennials. Amazon Prime took second place with 26% of those surveyed and 28% of younger viewers.

A survey by 451 Research earlier this year found that 19% of consumers with streaming services were subscribed to three or more providers. The report also revealed that among those who pay for streaming, 79% subscribed to Netflix, and 53% to Amazon Video. A full 33% of streaming subscribers reported choosing their streaming service based on its original content.

Finally, market research company GfK revealed that the number of consumers with multiple streaming services has risen 50% over the last three years.

The more, the merrier

As the saying goes, "A rising tide lifts all boats." In the end, this isn't a zero-sum game. Streaming services are gaining greater levels of respect and acceptance than ever before. As streaming video is more widely adopted, the combination of lower cost and high-quality content will encourage consumers to subscribe to multiple services. While The Handmaid's Tale was clearly a win for Hulu, the streaming industry was the biggest winner.