Last Sunday, the Primetime Emmy awards were the talk of the entertainment world. And whilst many were focusing on the yays and nays of the red carpet looks, there was a clear trend regarding the types of shows that swept the awards evening.

The takeaway of the night is that broadcast TV is lagging behind streaming services when it comes to critical acclaim. Most of the major categories were won by digital streaming shows, with two shows in particular picking up most of the awards. Netflix’s The Crown led the pack with 11 wins, whilst Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso picked up a total of seven awards.

And that’s not all. If the awards from the Primetime and Creative shows are combined, Netflix managed to bag a whopping total of 44 awards, more than double the amount that the streaming service received at the 2020 awards ceremony.

That number is the joint highest figure for a single channel, only matched by wins from CBS in 1974. This is also the first time ever that the service has managed to edge out HBO, according to CNET.

Apple TV+’s wins were also rather historic, representing the shortest period between launch to a series award for a streaming service, according to Variety. The lukewarm launch back in 2019 saw it pale in comparison to its streaming rivals, but the wins for Ted Lasso could be a sign of change on the horizon.

During the Primetime Emmys this year, around 62% of awards were given to shows from streaming services, with traditional TV making up just 38%. In previous years, Netflix had never managed to get past series from the likes of HBO, AMC, and FX. So, what happened to cause these changes?

Ted Lasso

The most noticeable shift can be traced back to 2019. After the Emmys that year, Fast Company released a report stating that 72% of winning shows didn’t require a cable subscription to be watched. Whilst not all were streaming first, they were available on catch-up services such as Hulu or CBS All Access (now Paramount+).

Meanwhile, 39% of winners were only available on Netflix, Prime Video or Hulu. This was also the same year in which some major streaming services launched, such as Disney+ and Apple TV+ – both of which had numerous nominations at the 2021 awards. HBO Max didn’t even exist at this point.

From then, streaming services began their journey towards dominating the TV world. However, like many other things, the pandemic led to a huge change in viewing habits – something Emmy voters had to notice.

A Nielsen study which came out in Summer 2021 showed that the audience share is officially higher in streaming than in broadcast TV (via Forbes). With more people at home, shows that could be binged and/or watched at any time are much more popular and convenient for audiences.

In addition, some top broadcast shows such as Westworld were put on hold due to filming complications as the pandemic continued, bringing less competition to the table. That said, there are other factors at play here – namely the type of content that streaming services produce in comparison to classic telly.

The Queen's gambit

I’ve previously discussed in this column how Netflix is more likely to take risks on content that traditional TV. Whilst I used reality shows as my reference point, The Queen's Gambit executive producer William Horberg also thinks that this mindset applies to its dramas – something he credited for the show winning the Emmy for the Best Limited Series.

Upon receiving the award, he stated: “You guys [Netflix] did the rarest thing of all these days. You took a chance on risky material and you trusted the filmmakers." Dan Levy gave a similar statement in 2020 when Schitt's Creek swept the awards ceremony (via Deadline).

Streaming isn’t just the second tier for shows anymore. Actors are flocking to the services which seem to offer more flexibility (and better salaries), including talent who would attract accolades such as the Emmys.

Broadcast TV has its work cut out over the next few years if it wants to continue contesting the streaming services for Emmy-winning shows. Netflix is continuing to plough on with new releases, as well as flesh out some of its biggest IPs to bring in more revenue – money that can be spent on creating more award-winning content.

Even the biggest TV channels seem to be directing efforts into streaming. HBO has seen an explosion in subscribers via HBO Max, and many new shows that have been announced have been confirmed to be exclusive to the streaming service. It’s a lot easier to acquire cord-cutting audiences.

Arrested development

Of course, there's a greater question regarding what effect these Emmy wins will have. Vox states that whilst some shows such as Mad Men managed to turn Emmy wins into new viewers for AMC, others, such as Arrested Development and Girls, didn’t really raise viewing numbers. This proves that networks can’t always count on Emmys to boost their audience.

The key difference for streaming services is that if someone is keen to see an awards-sweeping series from 2021, then they’ll have to fork out cash for it. Therefore, Netflix and Apple TV+ aren’t just getting views – they're getting direct revenue to create more high-quality content. 

The TV landscape has changed for good. Broadcast TV can still see wins from live TV and certain flagship shows, but in the years to come it's likely that streaming services will grow the number of wins across all categories.

I’m excited to see which shows will make the cut next year, but first I need to get over my anger that WandaVision was completely snubbed.

What I’m watching this week

Now that Autumn is officially here, it's finally the return of a TV classic: The Great British Bake Off (AKA The Great British Baking Show for readers over in the US).

Expect all the usual innuendos and mouth-watering desserts, plus far too many Hollywood Handshakes. If you’re in the UK, Bake Off airs on Channel 4 on Tuesdays at 8pm – but you can stream it over on All 4. US viewers can either watch it on Netflix on Fridays, or watch the show on the same day it airs in the UK by using a VPN.