Emmys: Netflix Courts Voters with Free 'House of Cards' BBQ

Netflix House of Cards Food Truck - H 2013
Chelsea Archer

Netflix House of Cards Food Truck - H 2013

Turns out there is such thing as a free lunch -- especially if you’re an Emmy voter and it’s the final full week of campaigning before ballots are due.

The most competitive Emmy race in history got another dose of campaign stunt work on Monday when Netflix, which has two hot contenders in the race -- House of Cards for drama series and Arrested Development for comedy series -- delivered a BBQ lunch to the offices of The Hollywood Reporter. The lunch, earmarked for staffers who cover the shows, included an announcement that Cards’ fictional BBQ joint Freddy’s would be operating food trucks around Los Angeles this week, and ATAS voters would be eligible for a free meal upon presentation of their membership cards.

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Serving the same southern fare eaten by Kevin Spacey’s conniving congressman Frank Underwood in Cards, the Freddy’s food trucks were parked at 5700 Wilshire today; tomorrow they will be serving lunch in Culver City from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with other locations being announced throughout the week.  

(The campaign stunt comes just a few days after Showtime delivered custom-created ice cream sandwiches to journalists to promote the final season of its serial-killer drama Dexter and the series’ latest round of Emmy nominations.)

It’s no surprise that Netflix, arguably the biggest threat to longtime Emmy dominator HBO, would go for broke in the final days of voting. The free BBQ caps an already aggressive campaign season for the streaming company, which hired Oscar campaign PR firm Ginsberg Libby to facilitate its Emmy press (the company repped Lincoln, among other Oscar contenders last year) and has blanketed Los Angeles with FYC billboards.

On April 25, Netflix hosted a lavish afterparty for Cards’ official Academy panel in Burbank. One attendee said the fete, featuring multiple buffets and bars, was one of the most lavish he'd ever seen at the usually modest Academy venue.

But today’s free grub begs a bigger question: Are these moves allowed by the Academy when Oscar season has strictly forbidden such activities?

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“We have nothing in our rules that says campaigners aren’t allowed to do this,” says senior vp of awards at the TV Academy John Leverence. “We are silent when it comes to promotions. We don’t get involved in anything beyond layouts and dimensions of DVD screeners.”

Reps for Netflix are declining to comment on the streaming company’s latest attempt to ply voters, but all signs -- literally, in one case -- point to the streaming company’s do-or-die approach to getting nominations in the coming week: Reports recently surfaced of door-knocking in Brentwood whereupon kids offered to residents gift certificates to retailers such as Starbucks -- or six months of free Netflix -- if they agreed to post in their front yards signs that read “Vote House of Cards” or “AD2013” (as in Arrested Development).