What will Award Season look like a year from now?
House of Cards put Netflix – and streaming – on the map. Amazon was lauded for Transparent. Now Hulu, with Sunday’s sweep of Emmys for The Handmaid’s Tale, has emerged as a bonafide player in premium entertainment. Last week, CEO Mike Hopkins said that the streaming service will spend $2.5 billion on original programming in 2017. Hulu has tapped veteran creatives for their upcoming slate: Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (The O.C., Gossip Girl) are helming Runaways, Twilight writer Stephenie Meyer is developing The Rook, and House of Cards’ own Beau Willimon is behind The First. With Apple and Facebook unveiling content plans of their own, one can only wonder: what will the Awards look like a year from now?
Disruption is nothing new to the Emmys. HBO, the original challenger (“It’s not TV,” after all), has been a dominant contender since they first emerged in the 90s. This year, the network took home 29 statues between Sunday’s festivities and the Creative Arts Emmys from the previous weekend. Streaming companies earned a total of 32 awards, with 20 for Netflix, 10 for Hulu, and 2 for Amazon. In recent years, streaming services have continued to steal away the biggest accolades in the most prestigious Emmy categories, and they show no signs of slowing. Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook are investing a total of $12.5B into original programming in 2017. Last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos ordered a major programming shift, reportedly demanding more Game of Thrones-esque fare with broad global appeal. This week Amazon Studios signed an overall deal with Stranger Things writer Justin Doble, perhaps a signal of what is to come. Apple has already stolen James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke from CBS, while the launch of Facebook’s Watch tab features titles from over 30 studio partners ranging from Refinery29 to Major League Baseball. It is clear that users – and the Television Academy – will have even more content options than ever before.
Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook are investing a total of $12.5B into original programming in 2017. Last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos ordered a major programming shift, reportedly demanding more Game of Thrones-esque fare with broad global appeal.
With over 450 original series on television and OTT platforms, even Television Academy chairman Hayma Washington has been quoted saying that the Academy, “…wouldn’t expect anyone to watch everything.” It has been said that we are living in the (second) Golden Age of television, a world in which there is genuinely great programming for every taste. We’re also seeing more democratic delivery systems and bolder storytelling employed by the streaming players; it is unlikely that series like I Love Dick or Narcos would be able to take the same liberties on broadcast television. As streaming networks broaden their slates with reboots, broad reach half-hour comedies, and unscripted programs like Fuller House and The Grand Tour, the argument could be made that Netflix and Amazon are gunning to replace, not enhance, the existing television landscape.
Peak TV presents the challenge of discovery for viewers, but it is even more daunting for brands trying to connect with them. Consumers are spending more time than ever staring at screens, but they continue to engage with entertainment in different ways. It would be impossible, or at least a grossly unwise use of resources, for a brand to try to be everywhere. Further, many of these environments are ad-free, presenting an added challenge. It is critical that brands meet their audience where she or he is, and the best way to do that is to target specific content and then be part of the story itself. While dystopian fare like The Handmaid’s Tale or The Man in the High Castle don’t lend themselves to product integration, there are dozens of other titles begging to be explored. While the future of television, and how we choose to Award it, remains to be seen, one thing is clear: there has never been a better time to get involved.