Hulu Becomes First Streaming Service to Win an Emmy for Outstanding Drama

The Handmaid's Tale wins 8 awards overall, including one for star Elisabeth Moss

Elisabeth Moss, who had never won an Emmy for Mad Men, was named outstanding actress in a drama series. Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Netflix may have more subscribers, more buzz and more cash to throw around, but Hulu now has something that has eluded its streaming competitor’s grasp for several years: an Emmy win for outstanding drama series.

The Handmaid’s Tale was one of the biggest winners at Sunday night’s 69th Emmy Awards, with eight Emmy wins overall, including for outstanding drama series—making Hulu the first streaming service to win an award in that category. Elisabeth Moss, the best thing that ever happened to Hulu, who had somehow never won an Emmy for playing Peggy Olson on Mad Men, took home the award for outstanding lead actress in a drama series.

While Netflix didn’t receive the award it coveted most, the streaming service came away with 20 total wins for shows like The Crown, Black Mirror and Master of None. That was enough to beat all other networks except for HBO, which led the pack (for the 16th straight year) with 29 overall Emmy wins, thanks to Big Little Lies (including outstanding limited series) and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (including outstanding variety talk series), as well as several Creative Arts Emmys for Westworld at last week’s ceremonies.

Netflix also made a splash with Emmy viewers by bringing its “Netflix is a Joke” campaign to television during the telecast with a spot in which comics like Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle and Ellen DeGeneres crashed Netflix shows.

NBC followed Netflix with 15 Emmy wins—nine of which went to Saturday Night Live, including outstanding variety series, and wins for Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon. SNL led all series with nine wins, followed by Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale, each with eight trophies.

While Netflix didn’t receive the award it coveted most, the streaming service came away with 20 total wins for shows like The Crown, Black Mirror and Master of None.

Hulu received 10 Emmys wins overall. Even though that number lagged behind Netflix, its trophy haul for The Handmaid’s Tale capped Hulu’s biggest year yet.

Meanwhile, fellow streaming service Amazon, which had been nominated for Transparent, was shut out during Sunday’s telecast, spending the night watching its two biggest competitors win Emmys. However, Amazon did win two Creative Arts Emmys a week earlier.

Some had expected that NBC’s This Is Us would win the drama series Emmy, and become the first broadcast network to do so since 24 in 2005. But that series’ sole award during the primetime telecast was for Sterling K. Brown, who was named outstanding actor in a drama series. The series received two Emmys overall.

Stephen Colbert was well-received in his Emmys hosting debut. “Tonight, we binge ourselves!” he told the audience early on, following an opening number in which he sang and danced with stars from This Is Us, Veep and The Americans. Colbert popped up throughout the evening with clever segments on Westworld and the Emmy statute herself (played by RuPaul).

The evening included a surprise cameo from former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who came on stage to declare, “This will be largest audience to witness an Emmys, period. Both in person and around the world!”

Spicer’s former boss, President Trump, was referenced repeatedly throughout the evening, with Colbert noting that Trump was still seething over never winning an Emmy for Celebrity Apprentice. “So in a way, this is all your fault!” he told the Emmy audience.

When Atlanta star Donald Glover accepted the award for lead actor in a comedy series (he also won for directing), he noted, “I want to thank Trump for making black people No. 1 on the most oppressed list. He’s probably the reason I’m up here.”

A complete list of Emmy winners can be found here.

CBS hopes Colbert was able reverse the Emmy ratings slide. Last year’s Emmy Awards, which aired on ABC, were the lowest-rated in modern history, with 11.3 million total viewers and a 2.8 rating in the 18-49 demo.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.