Is this the year Netflix finally cleans up at the Emmys?
Three years after Netflix's House of Cards became the first web-only series to win a Primetime Emmy Award, the popular streaming service goes into this weekend's awards show with more nominations than it has ever received: 54 for 2016, a 59% increase over last year's 34. But even with its steady climb in Emmy nods, Netflix has yet to walk away from the annual celebration of television entertainment with a major haul of statuettes.
Netflix only won four Emmy Awards last year, trailing streaming rival Amazon, which took home five statuettes—all for its acclaimed streaming series Transparent—despite one-third as many nominations. And even then, Netflix's showing last year was a far cry from the seven Emmy Awards (on 31 nominations) it took home in 2014.
Yet the fact that Netflix enjoys increasing numbers of Emmy nominations is a testament to the changing landscape of the television industry. With each passing year, TV's long-established incumbents cede more ground to tech-industry companies like Amazon and Netflix. (And it's not just the Emmys: Netflix has also made its presence felt at the Golden Globes, Academy Awards, and other entertainment industry award shows.)
Michael Smith—a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and co-author of the new book Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment—thinks Netflix's contributions are notable regardless of how many statuettes it takes home.
The company is helping change the way people watch television, he said.
"I think just the fact that they’ve been so successful so quickly should tell our friends in the industry that something dramatic is changing here," Smith told Fortune. "It’s not just that Netflix got lucky a couple times, it’s that there’s something systematic allowing them to make great content."
But a win's a win—especially as Netflix pursues a quest to launch itself into the stratosphere of Hollywood's traditional networks and studios. The company is spending a reported $5 billion this year on its ever-expanding roster of original series and films. It plans to churn out roughly 600 hours of original programming in 2016. With that much investment, a small Emmy haul simply won't do.
Netflix's most-nominated programs this year include House of Cards, with 13 total nominations including a nod for top drama series. Meanwhile the film What Happened, Miss Simone? and the massively popular true crime documentary series Making a Murderer scored six nominations apiece (both earned nods in the Outstanding Documentary category).
The Hollywood Reporter's Emmy Awards preview, which breaks down most of the major award categories, names House of Cards actress Robin Wright as the only Netflix representative among its predicted winners. Other prognosticators also predict a similarly slow night for Netflix at this year's Emmys. The company still stands to surprise—Netflix received a number of nods in lower-profile award categories (e.g. "outstanding guest actor" or the Creative Arts categories: sound editing, production design, and others).
The company most likely to win big at this year's Emmys? HBO. The Time Warner-owned company led the way with the most nominations for any network—a whopping 94 total—this year. The premium cable network's two biggest contenders, fantasy drama series Game of Thrones and political comedy Veep, are both expected to dominate the awards table again this year.
The Emmy Awards will air this Sunday on ABC and will be hosted by late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel.