Hulu didn’t win the most Emmy awards on Sunday night, but the streaming service’s big night was bright enough to let Hollywood know that Amazon and Netflix are no longer the only digital players making noise on the awards circuit.
Hulu—the streaming service owned jointly by four major TV networks—came into the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards with a personal record 18 total nominations, with its feminist dystopian series The Handmaid’s Tale leading the way with 13 nods. In fact, Hulu was only one year removed from scoring its first two nominations ever at the 2016 Emmys, but this year’s event brought the platform its first-ever wins. Hulu won in a big way on Sunday night, winning 10 total awards while becoming the first streaming service to ever win the Outstanding Drama Series award, for The Handmaid’s Tale.
HBO may have led the Emmys tally last night, with 29 total wins, including eight for the drama series Big Little Lies, while Netflix took home 20 awards itself. But, those results came as little surprise, considering that HBO and Netflix came into this year’s Emmys with more than 200 combined nominations. And while HBO and Netflix can’t exactly be upset about their respective performances last night, two of those networks’ most-hyped shows (HBO’s Westworld and Netflix’s Stranger Things, two genre dramas) failed to pick up any major awards on Sunday.
At the same time, Amazon only went home with two Emmys last night as the e-commerce giant may need to regroup its TV efforts after some expensive shows failed to find their footing recently.
Hulu, meanwhile, made Emmy history as a streaming service winning the night’s biggest award, while actress Elisabeth Moss also picked up her first Emmy (after being nominated seven times before, but never winning, for Mad Men and Top of the Lake) in the Best Actress category for The Handmaid’s Tale. The show won eight awards in total (tying with HBO’s Big Little Lies, both one short of NBC’s Saturday Night Live) and also picked up awards for writing and directing, while actresses Ann Dowd and Alexis Bledel won in the Best Supporting Actress and Outstanding Guest Actress categories. Hulu won two more Emmys last night for its streaming documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week.
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In the end, Hulu finished fourth in terms of overall Emmy wins (behind HBO, Netflix, and NBC), but that ranking is more than enough to signal the streaming service’s rapid ascendancy to the upper echelon of Hollywood. Hulu had struggled for years to find its footing with original programming, marked by failed pushes to launch original series with high-profile talent, including actors James Franco (in the time-travel drama 11.22.63) and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul (in The Path, about a sinister cult).
Those shows never gained much traction with audiences or critics, but with The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu finally has a breakout hit around which it will look to build a broader portfolio of original TV series. The drama debuted in April to critical and popular success, with Hulu quickly renewing the show for a second season after claiming that more Hulu viewers watched the show’s premiere than any previous series debut on the service.
Now, Hulu will try to replicate that success with more original series as Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins said last week that the company plans to spend roughly $2.5 billion on original programming this year. Hulu has been gradually rolling out more and more original TV series, while also launching its live-TV streaming service over the summer. Executives at Amazon and Netflix have said in the past that winning major Hollywood awards are good for business, as they lend even more credibility to streaming players looking to woo viewers to their services while also helping to attract high-profile talent, such as actors, writers, and directors.
Last year, Hulu said it had roughly 12 million subscribers, which means the service still has a long way to go to catch up with its larger rivals, as Netflix boasts over 100 million subscribers around the world while more than 80 million people have Amazon Prime accounts. What’s more, those three big streaming services are also facing a growing list of competitors, including some with very deep pockets, as Apple and Facebook have reportedly committed to spending $1 billion apiece on original series in the next year to build up their own streaming video businesses.