AT&T's (NYSE:T) freshly acquired HBO division just had an impressive streak snapped by video-streaming specialist Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). HBO's 17-year streak of scoring more nominations for Emmy Awards than any other network ended this week when HBO's nominations tally stopped at 108 but Netflix moved on to snag 112 potential statuettes. Last year, HBO landed 111 nominations while Netflix came in second place with 91 nods.
Will Netflix be able to turn this upset into solid gold, by way of pulling in paying subscribers by the boatload?
Hold your horses!
In a word: No. Not right now. One Emmy show won't make a game-changing difference for Netflix.
Sure, the company would love for leading nomination scorers The Crown, GLOW, and Stranger Things to bring home a lot of Emmy hardware in September, but it's not a make-or-break situation.
Netflix is set to deliver a second-quarter earnings report on Monday. Management will probably end up talking about the Emmy nominations during the earnings call, but the event won't have any direct effect on this report. The period in question spans from April 1 to June 30, and any subscriber additions Netflix scores in July will fall into the third-quarter report.
Even then, the impressive Emmy nominations performance is unlikely to make much of a difference. Yes, Netflix loves to collect awards and nominations. These indications of high-quality programming make a big difference as a whole. But that's all about long-term trends, not the intense spotlight of a single awards show.
The most important takeaway from Netflix usurping HBO is that Netflix's numbers are on the rise but HBO's have been stable for years. The Home Box Office snagged an industry-leading 110 nominations in 2003, for example.
And nominations may be nice, but they're nothing next to the brutal marketing power of an actual win. We'll have to wait until Sept. 17 for the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards show, but Netflix has been on a roll from that perspective in recent years.
The company moved from a single Emmy win in 2015 to six statuettes in 2016 and 20 wins last year. HBO started that span at 43 wins but had an off year in 2016 with just 22 victories before surging back to 29 in 2017.
A platform on the rise
Other streaming platforms are also making inroads into the Emmy discussion. Hulu walked away with 27 nominations this year, up from 10 last year. The Handmaid's Tale accounted for a remarkable 20 of this year's nomination nods and eight in 2017. If you're not impressed by that trend, you should know that HBO's Game of Thrones just barely led the field from a show-by-show perspective -- just two nominations ahead of the The Handmaid's Tale. Amazon.com found 22 invitations to the big dance this time, led by 14 nods for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, its total up from 16 last year.
You might think that it's bad news for Netflix when Hulu and Amazon do well at the awards, but I'd argue the exact opposite. We're watching the formative years of streaming video as a serious platform for top-quality content. It's like the early days of cable TV all over again, just with a new set of contenders on the stage. There's room for several winners in this rapidly expanding sector, with Netflix leading the big three to greater heights.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Walt Disney joining the streaming majors in 2019 and beyond as the House of Mouse transfers its streaming content from Netflix to its own in-house solution. Like I said, there's room for several big winners here.
Ten years down the road, there might be award-winning TV shows about this high-level business drama.
So, yeah, Netflix can celebrate its upset of HBO's nomination dominance, but the business results won't follow immediately. This is just another concrete block that Netflix can add to the foundation of its growing media production studio. It will all make a big difference a few years from now, though each particular brick might not have any game-changing effects on its own.