Netflix’s 14 Emmy nominations mark historic change in viewership


Television series produced by video service Netflix garnered 14 Emmy nominations on Thursday, a historic haul for shows that viewers watched exclusively over the Internet, without needing satellite dishes, rabbit ears or cable wires.

Instead the fans of “House of Cards” and “Arrested Development” could tune in wherever, whenever they pleased on any device with a decent Internet connection — so long as they also had a Netflix subscription.

And while that may not seem revolutionary in a world with more than 1 billion smartphones, the nominations highlighted the weakening hold that traditional distribution systems have on the wallets of viewers.

Analysts long have heralded the movement toward “cutting the cord,” meaning cancelling cable subscriptions in favor of getting what’s still quaintly called “television” through Internet services such as Hulu, YouTube and Netflix. But many popular and critically acclaimed shows often were not available through those services, or arrived only after the original broadcast time. Devoted fans kept their cords intact.

The move by Netflix to produce its own shows has upset the equation, especially now that it has made good on its goal of developing high-quality series in the model of premium cable channels such as HBO.

Many analysts expect the Emmy nominations for Netflix to encourage more companies to produce their own shows, and for those already experimenting — such as Amazon, which is developing several new series — to expand their ambitions.

“It is a watershed moment for video content,” said technology industry analyst Carl Howe of Yankee Group. “We’re now starting to see awards that don’t pay attention to how content is distributed. ... What the awards people are saying is: We don’t care anymore.”

Cable channels had their own breakthrough in 1999 when HBO’s “The Sopranos” became the first series not carried on broadcast television to be nominated for best drama.

So new is Internet television that there is no standardized tool for measuring viewership, as Nielsen ratings do for shows delivered through traditional channels. The average U.S. household watches 87 minutes of television on Netflix per day, more than any cable network, according to BTIG Research, though Netflix has declined to release how many people watch its original content.

The news is not all bad for cable operators. Many of the firms that deliver cable television also deliver broadband Internet through the same wires. Falling demand for traditional television may correspond with rising demand for data.

“The marketplace is very vibrant, there’s a lot of choices for consumers, and there’s a significant amount of competition going on,” said Brian Dietz, a spokesman for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

Yet the pressure to give consumers more choices — and lower-priced options for individual shows or channels — is likely to grow as a generation of viewers accustomed to getting video over the Internet comes of age.

Netflix reportedly spent $100 million on “House of Cards,” hiring high-profile stars such as Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, to lend artistic credibility to the tense political drama. Its 13 episodes were released together in February — allowing the most devoted fans to binge their way through the entire series in a weekend. Both Spacey and Wright won nominations on Thursday, among the nine for the show.

“Arrested Development,” an offbeat comedy originally made for Fox and revived by Netflix after Fox dropped it, received three nominations. “Hemlock Grove,” a horror series, got two nominations.