Streaming Networks Win Big at Emmys

September 18, 2018

By Max Godnick

Network TV is dead, and viewers only needed to watch NBC on Monday night to find out.

Traditional broadcasters were an afterthought at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards. HBO and Netflix tied for the night's most-honored platforms with 23 awards each, as the legacy media platforms ー the more conventional CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox ー won fewer than 30 trophies combined.

HBO's "Game of Thrones" and Amazon's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" won the evening's most prestigious awards, "Outstanding Drama" and "Outstanding Comedy" series, while a combination of Netflix, FX, and HBO took the majority of the other top categories.

"If you're one of the major old-school networks, I'm totally panicking now, because you're just irrelevant in the face of streaming," CinemaBlend's managing editor Sean O'Connell said Tuesday in an interview on Cheddar.

Though one show was trying to make sure it wasn't left in the dust of its network: "Saturday Night Live."

The iconic variety series was front and center all night while "Weekend Update" anchors Michael Che and Colin Jost emceed the telecast executive-produced by the show's legendary creator, Lorne Michaels. The trio held court as dozens of the show's cast members and alums (Kate McKinnon, Will Ferrell, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, and others) made cameo appearances as presenters and performers.

Kenan Thompson, SNL's longest-tenured cast member, handed out the night's final award ー a slot typically reserved for the industry's most venerable luminaries. Even some of the night's big winners (Bill Hader and John Mulaney) famously got their starts on the long-running sketch show's staff.

But despite the comedic pedigree involved in Monday night's ceremony, neither critics nor audiences were laughing through their boredom.

"There was too much Colin Jost and Michael Che," said Jen Chaney, a TV critic for Vulture, told Cheddar Tuesday.

While the pair's blasé tone may work behind the news desk at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Chaney said it was the wrong approach for an event like the Emmys.

"I think you really want your host to feel energized and excited to be there, and they just didn't," she said. "They even managed to suck the funny out of Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen."

The bad reviews were reflected in the early audience tallies. Overnight ratings showed a 10 percent decline from last year's ceremony, which until this year held the title for the second least-watched telecast in Emmy history (second only to the year before that).

Chaney cautioned, though, that comparing the 2018 Emmys to other shows is "apples and oranges" given that previous ones aired on Sunday nights. NBC chose to air the awards on Monday this year so as not to conflict with Sunday Night Football.

As audiences continue to experience awards shows on social media, networks have put a premium on unscripted and unexpected moments with viral potential. The Emmys managed to conjure up one such moment in the form of a live marriage proposal. Glenn Weiss, the director of the 2018 Academy Awards telecast, won the Emmy for "Outstanding Directing of a Variety Special" and dedicated his time at the podium to ask his girlfriend, Jan Svendsen, to marry him.

Leave it to a director of one live award show to create another award show's lone buzz-worthy moment.

"There is no question that everyone is going to remember the marriage proposal," Chaney said. "It injected a real sense of energy into the telecast. The Emmys needed that kind of a jolt."

If the Television Academy wants to reverse its slow march toward irrelevance, it may want to consider handing out more diamond rings in lieu of golden trophies next year.

Broadcast rights to the Emmys currently rotate among the four major networks, but Chaney said she "definitely" thinks the show will stream on a platform like Hulu or Netflix "at some point" in the future.

As Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and the like continue to throw billions of dollars at new content, far outpacing their network counterparts, future Emmys ceremonies will likely continue to be dominated by streaming fare. But the TV industry is as unpredictable as a live marriage proposal, and as O'Connell said, you never know what might happen.

"It only takes one great show to come around."

For full interview click here.