Arts & Entertainment

Emmys 2013: Win or lose, Netflix has changed the TV game

House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, is up for 9 nominations Sunday, including Best Drama.
House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, is up for 9 nominations Sunday, including Best Drama.

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The company that used to be best known for mailing DVDs in red envelopes is up for 14 nominations at the 65th annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday.

And whether its three nominated series — "Arrested Development," "Hemlock Grove" and "House of Cards" — walk away with gold statuettes, the nascent program producer is already this year's big winner, having changed the conversation about how and where TV shows get made.

“I think if it wins it makes a statement for the whole mode of distribution," said David Bushman, Television Curator at the Paley Center for Media.

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The rules for the Emmy’s were changed five years ago to allow for internet entries, but hardly anyone noticed back then. Until "House of Cards" — a dark political series starring Kevin Spacey — was nominated for best drama.

Bushman compares this moment to 2001, when HBO became the first cable channel to win for best drama or cable series, for "Sex and the City."

A key difference though: At that point, HBO had been producing original content for a decade. Netflix has only been producing original content for about a year.

But Bushman says even if Spacey and company go home with trophies on Sunday, it’s too soon to say if there will be other shows like "House of Cards," with its lavish $100 million production budget.

“The economic models for that sort of programming and the benefits for the companies that are investing in it, I think we’re not sure yet where that’s going,” said Bushman.

Netflix doesn't release viewership information for its shows. It says its most important indicator is the number of its subscribers, which has been handily increasing.

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You can be pretty sure, though, that HBO is doing just fine, even with the new competition.

It has earned the most nominations for 13 straight years and has 108 nominations this year, the most in nine years.

And what about the broadcast networks? CBS and NBC lead, with 53 nominations each. However, for the second year in a row, no network show is nominated for best drama.

For "House of Cards" to win, it has to overcome the widely considered favorite, AMC's "Breaking Bad," a major competitor at the ceremony on Sunday night.