HBO stole the Emmys back from Netflix—and that might not happen again for awhile

HBO takes the Emmys crown.
HBO takes the Emmys crown.
Image: HBO
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HBO reclaimed its spot atop the Emmys hierarchy this year, beating last year’s nominations leader, Netflix, to earn the most of any network with 137. Netflix followed with 117, while NBC placed a distant third with 58.

Last year, Netflix narrowly beat HBO for the first time ever, breaking the prestigious cable channel’s 17-year reign as the most-nominated network. But HBO was without its crown jewel, Game of Thrones, which did not air in time to qualify for the 2018 awards.

This year, however, Thrones was eligible, earning 32 nominations—more than any other show—to help HBO once again defeat the deep-pocketed streamer.

HBO was also boosted by Bill Hader’s dark comedy, Barry (17 nominations), and the critically acclaimed miniseries Chernobyl (19 nominations)—the latest in a long line of critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated miniseries for HBO.

The 32 nominations for Thrones marked a record for the most Primetime Emmy nominations for one series in a single year. That’s in spite of its eighth and final season, which took a historic critical nosedive. Still, Emmy voters tend to reward popular shows in their final seasons, so it’s not shocking that Game of Thrones dominated the field despite its less-than-stellar finale.

With Thrones now over, however, this could be the last time HBO so thoroughly dominates nominations day. Netflix is spending more on original content every year, and while HBO is beginning to do the same under new corporate owners AT&T, it’s unclear if it can do so and maintain the same quality that earned it its reputation as the darling of the Emmys in the first place. Without those 32 nominations, of course, Netflix would have kept the lead again this year.

Netflix still wasn’t very far behind, with 20 fewer nominations. The streaming giant was led with 16 nominations apiece by Ava DuVernay’s miniseries,When They See Us, and Russian Doll, a comedy co-created by Amy Poehler, Leslye Headland, and Natasha Lyonne, who was also nominated for lead actress in a comedy series.

The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards will air Sunday, Sept. 22 on Fox in the United States. The TV awards have turned into a duopoly between HBO and Netflix while all the many other networks and streaming services lag well behind. Netflix might take the lead back again next year, but HBO won’t fall out of second place.