Streaming Services Dominated the Emmys—in Both Awards and Ads

Amazon's Fleabag won four trophies, including outstanding comedy series

phoebe waller bridge fleabag emmy awards
Fleabag won four Emmys, including three for its creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Getty Images

Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston kicked off the hostless 71st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday night by singing the praises of television’s long history and bright future. “Television has never been bigger,” Cranston said. “Television has never mattered more. And television has never been this damn good.”

According to Emmy voters, that “damn good” television is primarily to be found on streaming services and premium cable, not broadcast. The big winners were once again HBO and Netflix, who both came into the ceremony having already banked dozens of wins during the Creative Arts ceremonies the previous weekend, and Amazon Prime Video, which won seven awards during Sunday night’s telecast—more than any other streamer, and second only to HBO.

Streaming services made a big splash offstage as well, with every major outlet running at least one ad during the Emmy telecast, and many—including Apple, Netflix and Amazon—airing several spots throughout the evening.

HBO, which had 25 awards going into the night, took home nine more trophies Sunday, including three for its miniseries Chernobyl (outstanding directing, writing and limited series). The show’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones, which with 32 nods was the most-nominated television series of 2019, took home outstanding drama, and Peter Dinklage also won for supporting actor in a drama. (The show took home 10 Creative Arts Emmys last week.)

Bill Hader won outstanding actor in a comedy series for Barry, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight won two awards (variety talk show series and writing in a variety series), and Succession was honored for writing in drama series.

In the streaming realm, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s acclaimed comedy Fleabag, a joint production from Amazon Studios and BBC, took home four awards, including for outstanding comedy series, lead actress in a comedy (Waller-Bridge), writing (Waller-Bridge) and directing (Henry Bradbeer).

Tony Shalhoub and actress Alex Borstein both won Emmys for their supporting roles in the Amazon comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Ben Whishaw took home the Emmy for supporting actor in a limited series or movie for his performance in Amazon’s A Very English Scandal. With eight awards already banked from last week’s Creative Arts Emmys, Amazon walked away with 15 Emmys total.

Netflix, having already banked 23 Emmys from last week’s Creative Arts Emmys, received four more awards Sunday night, including two for the drama Ozark (Julie Garner, supporting actress, and Jason Bateman, directing). Jharrel Jerome, from Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, won for actor in a limited series or movie, and the interactive Black Mirror movie Bandersnatch was named outstanding television movie.

Hulu also walked away with one award after Patricia Arquette was named outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or movie for The Act.

Traditional broadcast television only received two awards Sunday night: NBC’s Saturday Night Live was named outstanding variety sketch series, the show’s third consecutive win in the category, and also won for directing.

On cable, RuPaul’s Drag Race, which airs on VH1, took home an Emmy for best unscripted comedy, and Michelle Williams won best actress in a limited series or movie for her performance in FX’s Fosse/Verdon. For his performance in FX’s Pose, Billy Porter made history as the first openly gay man to win best actor in a drama. Jodie Comer, one of the stars of BBC America’s drama Killing Eve, won her first Emmy in the lead actress for a drama series.

The Emmy broadcast on Fox had no host this year, a decision that Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier said in August would allow for “more time to honor these shows.” True to his word, the ceremony included several odes to popular programming, including a send-off of several popular series that ended this year. The cast of Game of Thrones took center stage to announce one award winner, as did Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the cast of Veep.

The streamers dominated the Emmy ads as well. The first Emmy ad of the night was a spot for Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney+, in the first commercial break of the broadcast. Netflix aired four ads in total, including a spot for its upcoming Breaking Bad movie, El Camino.

Amazon Prime Video ran three ads during the broadcast: one for Prime Video originals generally, one for Mrs. Maisel’s upcoming season, and one for the romantic anthology Modern Love. Apple aired five short spots highlighting programming on its upcoming streaming service Apple TV+: one for the drama The Morning Show, one for the M. Night Shyamalan series Servant, one for the drama For All Mankind, and two for the comedy Dickinson.

Hulu ran an ad for the second season of Castle Rock. And even Facebook Watch got in on the action, airing an ad for its original series Limetown. In total, 15 ads for streaming services appeared during the Emmy broadcast.

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.