HBO made television history in 1999 when its critically-acclaimed series The Sopranos took home five Emmy wins, a first for any cable-produced dramatic series. Now, fourteen years later, the company aiming to be the HBO for the online era is following its rival onto the television industry’s biggest celebration.
Netflix’s House of Cards took home three Emmy awards Sunday night, after being nominated in 14 categories. The wins marks the first time an online-only series has won an Emmy. The surprise, however, wasn’t that House of Cards took home three statuettes, but that it didn’t take home more.
“I did not see this coming. I thought this was going to be House of Cards,” said Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, accepting the Emmy for outstanding drama series.
House of Cards took home Emmy wins for outstanding cinematography for a single camera series, outstanding casting for a drama series, and outstanding directing for a drama series (David Fincher).
A momentous moment
For Netflix, the wins prove the company is able to produce high-quality series on its own without depending on traditional content creators.
At its core, however, House of Cards was a television show like any other. Sure, you could binge watch the entire series at once, commercial breaks were a non-issue, and each episode length didn’t have to fit inside a specific time block. Nevertheless, House of Cards was recognizable as a television show.
The truly groundbreaking thing about House of Cards was its delivery system and the Emmy wins are a validation of the Internet as a stand-alone entertainment platform—a milestone not all that different from another big moment four years ago, when The Simpsons was suddenly worth more online than on broadcast TV.
With Netflix’s big night at the Emmys you can count on seeing more online-only entertainment in the coming years. Netflix produced four big shows in 2013, including House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, a new season of Arrested Development, and Hemlock Grove. In 2014, Netflix has plans to double its original series output, including a second season of House of Cards and a sci-fi series called Sense8 from the Wachowski siblings .
Beyond Netflix, Amazon could also be a big player at the Emmys as the online retailer actively develops original content for its own streaming video users. The online retailer recently announced casting for a new series called Alpha House that includes well-known actors such as John Goodman, Cynthia Nixon, Amy Sedaris, and Wanda Sykes.