In the TV business, an
This year, some of those full-page ads and DVD mailers will herald something new: the arrival of a full-on contender with a game-changing pedigree.
"Most people watch 'House of Cards' through an Internet connection to their television," says Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer. "At the end of the day, which pipe went into the box is kind of irrelevant to viewers."
Even so, the Emmy Awards are voted on by the esteemed members of the
of Arts & Sciences. Whether they'll embrace or resist such an incursion remains to be seen on July 18, when the nominations are announced, but their own leadership paved the way, initiating a rule change in 2008 that allows digital shows to compete in the same categories as broadcast and cable programs. The provision has languished until now, like a ball gown that was purchased but never worn, but chances are it's about to come out of the closet.
John Leverence, the academy's senior vice president of awards, says the winds of change began to blow back in 2007, when the Emmy-winning makers of TV's "thirtysomething," Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, mounted "Quarterlife," an ambitious but short-lived Web series that aimed to appeal to twentysomethings in the medium that defined their era. By the time the Emmys next rolled around, the doors had been opened to the digital format.
"The board wanted to avoid a divide-and-conquer situation because that would diminish the significance of the award," Leverence says. "You'd have different winners for drama, cable and online. We felt the focus should be on the quality of the storytelling, regardless of the means of delivery."
The rule change was so ahead of the curve that even Sarandos wasn't aware of it until recently. He remembers warning David Fincher, who directed the "House of Cards" pilot, that his work on the show "isn't going to qualify for an Emmy, even if it turns out to be the best you ever do."
"We weren't sure we'd be eligible, and we were prepared to discover that we might not be," says Sarandos.
But the real significance of a "House of Cards" nomination, if it happens, will be as the harbinger of a new era.
Meanwhile, the short-form web series is still thriving and remains Emmy-eligible in live-action and nonfiction categories dubbed "special class." Such ambitious and well-funded entries as "H+," a sci-fi future world series from producer Bryan Singer and