HBO vs Netflix: Streamer may be trailing in Emmy nominations, but don't feel too sorry just yet

The two have traditionally been locked in a battle for most nominations every year. HBO smashed it this time

This image released by HBO shows Kit Harington in a scene from "Game of Thrones."  On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, Harington was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series.  (HBO via AP)
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This may have been the year that Netflix conquered the Oscars, with a huge 10 nominations for Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, resulting in three wins including the first-ever Best Director award for a foreign-language film. Back in TV-land, however, it appears Netflix may have lost ground to its fierce rival HBO, which last night smashed the streaming giant out of the park with a record 137 nominations to Netflix's 117.

The last few years of Emmy nominations have been characterised by the ongoing tug-of-war between streamer Netflix and cable giant HBO to see who would take home the most nods. After snapping at HBO’s heels ever since it ramped up its original content production, Netflix finally overtook its rival last year with 112 nominations to HBO’s 108. That at last broke HBO’s 18-year nomination-leading streak. But it seems that while Netflix had one eye on the Oscars, HBO has focused doggedly on winning back its primacy in the TV awards.

No one was too surprised that the most-lauded show was Game of Thrones, the most-nominated show in Emmy history, which now has 161 nods including this year's record-breaking haul of 32 nominations.

This came despite the fact that the show's final series had mixed reviews from fans; petitions are still doing the rounds, campaigning for a rewrite of the epic fantasy's divisive ending. GoT set a further new record as the first time four Best Supporting Actress nominations have been won by a single show, with Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) all up for the prize.

Surprise smash hit Chernobyl, currently the best-rated TV show ever on IMDb, was HBO's second most-nominated show – its 19 nominations placed it third overall, with Amazon's Marvelous Mrs Maisel rounding out the top three, and Netflix cut out altogether.

In fact, a Netflix show doesn't make it into the most-nominations charts until Ava DuVernay's miniseries When They See Us pops up in seventh place with 16 nominations.

The streamer probably shouldn’t be too disheartened, however. It may have been HBO’s year for Emmy nominations, but Netflix was still far and above this year’s third-placed network. Netflix’s 117 nominations, itself an improvement of five from last year, dwarfed NBC’s 58 nods, ensuring that Netflix and HBO still lead the pack by some distance.

This image released by Amazon shows Rachel Brosnahan, left, and Alex Borstein in a scene from "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."   On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, Borstein was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series. (Amazon via AP)
Amazon's 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'  helped HBO shut Netflix out of this year's top three of nominees. AP

There was also no Stranger Things, usually one of Netflix's strongest Emmys performers, released within this year's qualifying period – season three premiered after the May 31 cut-off point. A double digit haul for the supernatural drama would have made things a lot closer, particularly if some of those nominations came at the expense of HBO shows. To counter that, however, it should be noted that HBO's critically lauded Big Little Lies also missed the cut-off – cynics argue that was intentional so as to avoid competing with Game of Thrones – and there was no new season of Westworld for the cable channel either in this year's qualifying period.

Netflix managed a nomination in every major category except Best Variety Show, a category where the streamer has a disadvantage over traditional broadcasters. Simply, the immediacy of shows like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (both nominated) is much better suited to the linear TV format – you don't go to Netflix for news. Even taking that into account, former John Oliver correspondent Hasan Minhaj can maybe feel a little aggrieved to have been overlooked in the category for his Netflix show Patriot Act.

Nominations do not equal wins, of course – just ask Jorgos Lanthimos, whose film The Favourite was tied with Netflix's Roma for most nominations at this year's Oscars.

While Roma left the ceremony with three awards from its 10 nominations, the Favourite picked up a sole statue for Olivia Coleman's Best Supporting Actress performance. The same could easily happen at the Emmys, and a massive 117 nominations probably shouldn't be sniffed at even if HBO has regained top spot.

Statistically alone, Netflix can expect to leave the Microsoft Theatre in September with an armful of trophies, so we won’t go overboard on the pity.

The 71st Emmy Awards will be held in Los Angeles on September 22 at 5pm PST (4am on September 23, UAE time)