Magazine article Variety

Digital Players Want a Cut of the Kudos Pie

Magazine article Variety

Digital Players Want a Cut of the Kudos Pie

Article excerpt

When it comes to TV awards, digital may be the new cable. Internet-streaming

services Netflix and Amazon are producing award-worthy original programming - and Hulu. Yahoo and AOL are also jumping into the game, looking to garner industry accolades for their content investments and the marketing lift they provide.

The digital insurgents haven't fully crossed the divide yet, having been shut out of major Emmy wins so far. The highest-profile victories have been David Fincher's directing win for "House of Cards" season one. and "Orange Is the New Black" co-star Uzo Aduba's guest actress Emmy last year.

But the tide appears to be shifting. "Cards' star Kevin Spacey won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award this year; "OITNB" picked up two SAG wins; and Amazon Studios' "Transparent" won a Globe for best comedy series, while star Jeffrey Tambor nabbed lead actor.

"We are moving now into an age where art is being funded from so many disparate sources, from the Netflixes and Amazons and others." says Jesse Redniss, partner with media-consulting firm Brave Ventures. "There are going to be more and more instances of these players winning awards."

For years, TV programming was created by just a handful of networks, which Redniss compares to wealthy Renaissance patrons like the Medicis funding all the great art from the era. Now, there are dozens of buyers for top-notch shows: "It's the democratization of art and storytelling.' he says.

There are still digital-specific categories for the Emmys and other awards. But the lines are blurring between digital and traditional linear television - look no further than HBO's recent launch of the standalone, $15-per-month HBO Now service, available in the same way Netflix is.

Still, it took cable nets years to crack the Primetime Emmys. The first cable series to win a best drama laurel was "The Sopranos" in 2004 for its fifth season. Since then, only two broadcast shows have won best drama: ABC's "Lost" in 2005 and Fox's "24" in 2006.

"It took cable a long time to stop being called 'cable,'" says Dermot McCormack, president of AOL Video & Studios, who joined the Internet-media company from Viacom last year. "We still call digital 'over-the-top' today, but consumers don't differentiate."

When it comes to awards, the TV industry still harbors a bias against content distributed on digital platforms, according to McCormack. But he predicts that will change quickly.

AOL's "Park Bench With Steve Buscemi" was nominated for an Emmy last year, in the short-form nonfiction program category. The show returns for a second season early this summer. "We do feel like we have content that is creatively different, and we want to put our best foot forward," McCormack says. In May Verizon acquired AOL in a $4.4 billion deal, as the telco looks to launch a wireless-centric Internet video service with AOL's originals and ad-serving technology.

This year could be a tipping point for digital platforms to raise their status as major contenders for awards recognition, says Daniel O'Keefe, general partner at Technology Crossover Ventures. TCV investments include Netflix and Vice Media, which won a 2014 Emmy for its show on HBO.

"You see Netflix winning Emmys, Vice winning Emmys - these are new players creating truly innovative content," O'Keefe says. "The creative geniuses want to go where the audience is going."

For this year's Emmys race, Netflix is expected to lead again with its flagship originals "House of Cards" and "Orange" (although "OITNB" moves to the drama category, after competing as a comedy last year). …

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