Emmys: Netflix's Ted Sarandos Cheers 'Creative Campaign' Behind Its 14 Nominations

"Emmy voters eliminated the line between Internet and television," says Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos.
"Arrested Development" and "House of Cards"

Netflix has muscled its way into the primetime Emmys, earning 14 nominations, including nine for House of Cards, the political thriller starring Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and directed by David Fincher (The Social Network). For the SVOD service, which will spend $100 million on the first two seasons of House of Cards, its more than just validation.

“Emmy voters very comfortably eliminated the line between Internet and television and said television is about what’s on the screen -- not what size the screen is or how the content got there,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told The Hollywood Reporter.

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House of Cards received outstanding lead actor and actress nominations for Spacey and Wright and a directing nom for Fincher. Mitch Hurwitz’s Arrested Development earned three, including an outstanding comedy actor nom for Jason Bateman. The program was also recognized for editing and music. And Hemlock Grove, a series that bowed with less buzz than either Cards or Arrested, pulled in two nominations for visual effects and main title theme.

Internet content has been eligible for the Primetime Emmy Awards since 2008. But the strong showing for Cards could be the beginning of a turning point for the content business, as multiple SVOD services are commissioning the kind of high-priced content that was once exclusively confined to traditional television. It's worth noting that it’s only the second year that Netflix has fielded eligible Emmy content. (The Steve Van Zandt drama Lilyhammer was eligible last year.) But it took a big-budget production with A-list auspices to compete with the likes of AMC’s Mad Men and Breaking Bad, PBS’ Downton Abbey, HBO’s Game of Thrones and Showtime’s Homeland, last year’s winner.

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“The shows are drawing TV-sized audiences,” added Sarandos. “It’s great that they are critically and artistically compared to TV at the highest level.”

The second season of House of Cards is currently in production in Baltimore, though Fincher will not be directing any of the episodes. And Netflix executives are certainly looking for an Emmy bump for its $7.99 streaming service and will use the nominations in its ongoing marketing plans. The company mounted extensive Emmy campaigns for House of Cards and Arrested Development, blanketing Los Angeles with lawn signs and deploying a fleet of food trucks branded with Cards’ fictional BBQ joint Freddy’s to offer free lunches to Academy voters.

“The Emmy ballot looks like the encyclopedia,” noted Sarandos. “So there’s a lot of programming to try to stand out from. I think we had one of the most creative Emmy campaigns this town has ever seen. And I’m sure that helped distinguish the shows and give the voters something to think about.”

E-mail: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com
Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie