The Emmys were supposed to be a showdown between HBO and Netflix, but it was Hulu that emerged from the evening as the biggest winner.
Hulu became the first streaming service to win an Emmy for best drama when The Handmaid’s Tale took home the night’s top prize, beating rival Netflix to the punch despite a much smaller content budget. Netflix’s famously enormous $6 billion annual budget for original programming has netted the streaming giant hundreds of nominations, but the company has yet to win an Emmy for best drama (or comedy).
The win is a gigantic victory for Hulu as it looks to not only compete with Netflix and Amazon Video in the streaming space but also begin to take on cable giants such as HBO in battles over talent. It could help the streaming service attract bigger names, now that it’s a bona fide Emmy winner.
Both Netflix’s Stranger Things and HBO’s Westworld were shut out of the major awards. The night was far from a total loss for HBO, however. For the umpteenth year in a row, it took home the most awards of any network, thanks to a dominant showing from its limited series Big Little Lies and the comedy series Veep.
And it’s hard to call Netflix a loser, since it still won multiple awards and is on pace to surpass HBO as the most Emmy-winning network or streaming service any time now. But this year, at least, it failed to beat out HBO and it was unexpectedly upstaged by the smaller upstart Hulu.
Hulu and Netflix both launched their first original shows in 2013, but Hulu’s efforts to build an original programming apparatus didn’t begin in earnest until 2016. The Handmaid’s Tale, which launched in April and immediately became a cultural phenomenon, is easily the service’s most successful original show to date. Netflix, meanwhile, has created dozens of popular and critically acclaimed shows—it just hasn’t won the big award yet.
For a long time, the Emmys were about the “big four” American broadcasters (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC). Then, they were about HBO versus those broadcasters. Recently, they’ve been about HBO versus Netflix.
But it’s now clear that there’s a new major player in the fold, and it’s here to stay.