The world,” said Stephen Colbert, host of the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, “may be the worst it’s ever been but it’s never been better on your TV screen”. But the TV show host and Trump-basher was at least half wrong, as was the title of America’s most prestigious small-screen award.
This year, the Emmy’s made one thing clear: The TV networks that have ruled American television (and by extension, the English speaking world’s TV) since its inception are going the way of the post and telegraph department — still around in official titles but increasingly obsolete. Original programmes from online streaming services — Netflix, Amazon, Hulu et al — bagged 32 Emmys this year. To put that in perspective, House of Cards was the first exclusively online show to win an award in a major category (direction) in 2013.
The shift in the last four years is not just in the number of awards the shows on new platforms are bagging. The way in which entertainment is consumed has changed drastically. The “Netflix and chill” generation can binge-watch an entire season over a weekend. Why would you keep a weekly appointment with a TV screen when you can access shows on a device of your choosing at any time?
But perhaps the most important factor in the rise and recognition of content produced by streaming services is the fact that a lot of it is of high quality. Unencumbered by a traditional advertising and censorship model, there are challenging, moving stories for adults: The Handmaiden’s Tale (Hulu), based on Margaret Atwood’s novel, a dystopia that examines gender and slavery, took home awards for best acting, writing and direction.
There are those that will lament the loss of the anticipation of sitting around the idiot box as a family. There was much wistfulness when the last telegram was sent, too.