What We Can Learn from the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards
By Leslie Fields-Cruz
This weekend’s Primetime Emmys made it official: streaming networks are now television’s dominant player. We all saw this coming. But it’s worth noting that subscription services have eaten network TV’s lunch at breakneck speed. The question for public media — which remain heavily wedded to traditional distribution, programming and funding models — is: what does this mean for us?
Netflix began offering streaming subscriptions to its members in 2007. By 2013 they became the first streaming platform to win a primetime Emmy. In 2018, they tied HBO with 23 awards. But this year, Netflix dwarfed HBO’s early century dominance, winning 44 Emmys, besting a record CBS set nearly 50 years ago (in 1974). The 2021 Creative Arts Emmy performance of traditional networks: NBC won eight, ABC won two and CBS won one.
This sea change has increased opportunities for Black talent. The output of our creatives is attracting recognition. For instance, a record number (49) of this year’s acting and reality hosting nominations went to BIPOC talent. Though none won — and that’s a discussion for another dispatch — three Black people made history: Debbie Allen won this year’s Governor’s Award (the first Black woman to do so); Michaela Coel is the first Black woman to win an Emmy for writing in HBO’s I May Destroy You; and RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH-1 and Logo) won in the Outstanding Competition Program category, making RuPaul Charles the first person of color to win four Emmys.
Of course, advertisers follow audiences and audiences like winners. So, the streaming networks’ influence on how the industry grows, and what content and talent gets greenlit should continue to mount. Something to watch. As the 73rd Emmy’s demonstrate, the dominance of streaming content is no longer coming, it’s here!
Before I go, I should remind everyone that the Urbanworld Film Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary, Sept. 29-Oct. 3, with a hybrid program. Go here for details about its streaming and in-person offerings, and passes.
The San Antonio Black International Film Festival also runs Sept. 30 — Oct. 3. Ticket info for that festival is here.
Fields-Cruz is the executive director of Black Public Media