Cable Dominates Again at the Emmys, but Netflix Shapes the Night

Even With Only One Major Win, Streaming Video Platform Makes Itself Felt

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Victories for HBO and AMC may have prevented a Netflix takeover at the Emmys on Sunday, but the streaming video platform still made history when its "House of Cards" became the first digital-first series to win in a major category when David Fincher took home outstanding director of a drama.

Bryan Cranston and Claire Danes at the Emmys
Bryan Cranston and Claire Danes at the Emmys Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Although the show's other major nominations, for outstanding drama series and for acting by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, did not lead to wins, its presence was felt throughout the night.

Emmys host Neil Patrick Harris began with a skit involving him binge-watching TV shows, a phenomenon promoted by Netflix.

And when AMC's "Breaking Bad" closed the night by winning top honors for outstanding drama, show creator Vince Gilligan told the audience he thought "House of Cards" was going to win. Mr. Gilligan later credited Netflix for the success of "Breaking Bad," saying backstage that he didn't think the series would have lasted beyond season two if it weren't for streaming video on demand.

Netflix had been nominated for 14 awards, including nods for Jason Bateman's role on "Arrested Development." Netflix revived the comedy, which previously aired on Fox, in May.

Even as digital platforms knocked on the door, cable -- itself a onetime interloper -- showed its dominance once again. No broadcaster was nominated in the drama category for the second year in a row.

While broadcasters continued to show strength in comedy categories, even there its dominance seemed to be waning. ABC's "Modern Family" won for outstanding comedy series for the fourth consecutive year, while Jim Parsons from CBS's "The Big Bang Theory'" took home the win for outstanding actor in a comedy.

But HBO picked up two surprise wins for HBO's "Veep": outstanding actress in a comedy for Julia Louis-Dreyfus and outstanding supporting actor in a comedy for Tony Hale. And Merritt Wever received outstanding supporting actress in a comedy for Showtime's "Nurse Jackie," beating out Jane Krakowski for NBC's "30 Rock" and Jane Lynch for Fox's "Glee."

The show reached into the past to highlight the power of live TV, bringing out Don Cheadle to recall coverage of John F. Kennedy's assassination 50 years ago this November and the Beatles' appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" soon afterward -- which drew a now-astounding 73 million viewers.

"National tragedy gave way to another event, and a dark cloud was suddenly lifted, making it OK to experience joy again," Mr. Cheadle told the audience and viewers.

"TV has the power to engage, inform and unite," he added. "It remembers the past, celebrates the present and anticipates our future."

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