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Once again, HBO has the most nominations of any network or platform going into the 75th Emmys awards ceremony. But its decades-long Emmy dominance may not last as hit shows, such as “Succession,” end and the company’s rebrand to Max seeks a broader audience.

HBO has led Emmy nominations for 17 of the past 20 years. The channel goes into Monday’s ceremony with 127 nominations, more than half spread across “Succession,” “The White Lotus” and “The Last of Us.”

Broadcast dominated the Emmys

prior to the 1990s ...

Networks with

most nominations

In early years,

CBS and NBC

often competed

for 1st

... but HBO has led almost every year since 2000

“The Sopranos” and

“Sex and the City”

help catapult HBO

to the top, where

it would stay for

17 years

Streaming

emerges as a key

player in Emmy

nominations

Note: Only companies with at least five nominations are

included in the data.

Broadcast dominated the Emmys prior to the 1990s ...

In early years,

CBS and NBC often

competed for 1st

Networks with

most nominations

... but HBO has led nominations most years since 2000

“The Sopranos” and “Sex and the

City” help catapult HBO to the top,

where it would stay for 17 years

Streaming emerges

as a key player in

Emmy nominations

Note: Only companies with at least five nominations are included in the data.

Broadcast dominated the Emmys prior to the 1990s ...

In early years,

CBS and NBC often

competed for 1st

Networks with

most nominations

... but HBO has led nominations almost every year since 2000

“The Sopranos” and “Sex and the

City” help catapult HBO to the top,

where it would stay for 17 years

Streaming emerges as a key

player in Emmy nominations

Note: Only companies with at least five nominations are included in the data.

HBO’s Emmys haul stems from its subscriber-based model, a novelty when it launched in 1972. Unlike the ad-driven big broadcasters, “their goal isn’t attracting the most people. Their goal is telling stories in a different kind of way, offering stories we haven’t seen before,” said Amanda Lotz, media studies professor at the University of Queensland in Australia.

The Emmys became the perfect platform for HBO to signal its creative bona fides after the awards show opened up to cable networks in 1988.

“HBO has been incredibly aggressive in promoting its materials to the Emmys because it sees it as a pathway for getting recognized as creating quality programing, which then attracts new subscribers,” said Avi Santo, communications department chair at the University of North Carolina.

As a premium channel, the network wasn’t confined to the time-limited, commercial-break-ridden structure of sitcoms or Federal Communications Commission regulations on profanity, nudity and violence.

“They could carry over storylines beyond just one episode, which was not typical at the time,” said television historian Wesley Hyatt. “People appreciated that freedom the artists were showing and rewarded them for that.”

In the early 2000s, concurrent original drama and comedy series — “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under” and “Sex and the City” — propelled HBO to the top of the nominations list, where it would stay for more than a decade.

The series that fueled HBO’s Emmys rise

Top 10 HBO shows by total Emmy nominations

Years with no

nominations

“The Sopranos”

took a hiatus

in 2005

Note: Limited series and programs that weren’t nominated during multiple years were excluded

The series that fueled HBO’s Emmys rise

Top 10 HBO shows by total Emmy nominations

Years with no

nominations

“The Sopranos”

took a hiatus

in 2005

Note: Limited series and programs that weren’t nominated during multiple years were excluded

The series that fueled HBO’s Emmys rise

Top 10 HBO shows by total Emmy nominations

Years with no

nominations

“The Sopranos”

took a hiatus

in 2005

Note: Limited series and programs that weren’t nominated during multiple years were excluded

The series that fueled HBO’s Emmys rise

Top 10 HBO shows by total Emmy nominations

Years with no nominations

“The Sopranos”

took a hiatus

in 2005

Note: Limited series and programs that weren’t nominated during multiple years were excluded

For most of its existence, HBO was differentiated by its subscriber-based model that incentivized high-risk niche content that could yield high rewards. More recently, streaming services have adopted a similar model, but with their own twist: scale.

“Netflix and all these other streaming services do create original content that is designed to get people to subscribe and keep them subscribed,” Santo said. “The sheer volume of it, it tends to be significantly larger.”

They have become major award competitors to HBO in recent years, in part because of how much they produce and their drive to gain the same recognition at the Emmys.

In 2018, Netflix toppled HBO’s reign, with more than 40 shows receiving nominations. The breadth of programming nabbed Netflix the top spot even though its most-nominated show that year, “The Crown,” was far behind HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld” in individual nominations. Later seasons of “The Crown,” along with “Ozark” and “Queen’s Gambit” would help earn Netflix the top spot again in 2020 and 2021.

Numerous streaming platforms have become big players at the Emmys with highly nominated shows, including: Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Only Murders in the Building”; Amazon Prime’s “Marvelous Miss Maisel” and “Fleabag” and Apple Plus’s “Ted Lasso.”

Streaming companies have overtaken the Emmys

Emmys start including cable

Streaming companies have overtaken the Emmys

Emmys start including cable

Streaming companies

have overtaken the Emmys

Emmys start including cable

Streaming companies

have overtaken the Emmys

Emmys start including cable

Last year, HBO Max and Discovery Plus were combined to make Max. The new streaming service aims for the volume and diversity of programming common to other platforms, something that could muddy HBO’s distinctive brand. “At that point, HBO stops being HBO to some degree,” said Lotz.

The move is part of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s mission to make it “one of the top streaming companies in the world,” where people will tune in for HBO shows and stay for the comfort of Discovery.

Max trails Netflix and Disney Plus in subscribers, and Emmy nominations don’t often translate to viewers. The series finale of Emmy-favorite “Succession” was watched by 2.9 million people, whereas an episode of the military police drama NCIS draws an average of 9.8 million viewers.

The drive for a bigger audience could mean fewer nominations. “I think David Zaslav has made abundantly clear that his focus is on generating numbers and not television … and you’re going to see HBO’s — or Max, or whatever you want to call it — domination at the Emmys die off really quickly,” said Hyatt.

HBO faces another challenge to keeping its top nomination spot after Emmy-favorites “Succession” and “Barry” ended last year. Few highly nominated shows are expected to air new series before the May 31 awards deadline.

That problem isn’t unique to HBO: shows across the industry were delayed because of the writers and actors strikes. The historic walkouts pushed back the Emmys awards ceremony for months. And their impact may still be felt at the next Emmys, when nominators face fewer scripted shows from which to choose.

Nominations data was sourced from the Emmys website.

Carson TerBush’s favorite HBO show is “Game of Thrones.” Hanna Zakharenko adores “Westworld.” Editing by Kate Rabinowitz, a longtime fan of “Enlightened.” Copy editing by Phil Lueck, who’s obsessive enough about news to be a fan of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”


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