In what may be its last hurrah as the network that defined quality television, HBO topped the 71st Emmy Awards on Sunday with nine wins in the major categories presented on the Fox telecast.
But streaming services continued their incursion on HBO’s Emmy dominance as Amazon had a strong night with a total of seven wins at the ceremony, including four for “Fleabag,” which won for best comedy.
HBO, The WarnerMedia-owned premium cable channel, was propelled by Emmy victories for its fantasy drama “Game of Thrones,” which earned two trophies, and the limited series “Chernobyl,” which landed three wins on Sunday night.
Combined with last week’s Emmy ceremony for creative arts categories, HBO held off Netflix with a total of 34 wins. The streaming behemoth walked away with a total of 27 statuettes. Amazon had a total of 15.
Last year HBO tied Netflix with 23 wins, marking the first time in 17 years that it didn’t win the most Emmys.
For “Game of Thrones,” the fourth win for best drama ties it with the other four-time victors in the category — “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” “The West Wing” and “Mad Men.”
While many hard-core “Game of Thrones” fans expressed unhappiness over the quality of the final season of the drama based on the George R.R. Martin novels, the Television Academy members who vote on the Emmys tend to reward series for their entire body of work.
Surprisingly, the longtime academy favorite “Veep,” which ended after seven seasons on HBO, was shut out for the night.
While it was a celebratory night for HBO, the competition from streamers loomed larger than ever, underscoring the rapid transformation of the television industry as rising digital players compete for critical accolades.
Netflix came in second place overall without the benefit of its three most acclaimed hits, “Stranger Things,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “The Crown,” which did not run during the qualifying period for the awards.
But HBO’s “Chernobyl,” the limited series about the 1986 nuclear power plant disaster in the Ukraine, staved off a strong challenge from the Netflix limited series “When They See Us,” writer-director Ava DuVernay’s take on the wrongful 1990 conviction of five teenage boys from Harlem in the rape and near-deadly assault of a 28-year-old female jogger in Central Park. “Chernobyl,” which in the pre-streaming era was the type of prestige project that would clean up at the awards, earned three Emmy wins — including best limited series or drama — while “When They See Us” scored one.
Neflix also had wins for the drama series “Ozark,” which captured a supporting actress trophy for Julia Garner and a drama direction award for Jason Bateman. “Bandersnatch,” an episode in the Netflix series “Black Mirror,” won for television movie.
Amazon scored the second most wins on the night, including two awards for Alex Borstein and Tony Shalhoub for the series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”; and comedy writing for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the creator and star of “Fleabag.” The service also won with “A Very English Scandal,” which landed a best supporting actor in a limited series win for Ben Whishaw.
Notably, both Netflix and Amazon made gains as HBO’s long-running powerhouse entries “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” are exiting the stage, which raises questions about the premium cable’s future dominance of the Emmys.
HBO built its reputation by racking up Emmy awards over the years, which enhanced the network’s value in the minds of consumers. Netflix and Amazon have tried to follow that model by investing in distinctive content that gets elevated and promoted through awards recognition.
Netflix is expected to continue to mount pressure on HBO as it increases its investment in original programming. The Los Gatos-based company will spend $15 billion on programming in 2019, up from $12 billion last year.
HBO did see recognition for its newer series.
Bill Hader, star of the comedy “Barry,” earned his second consecutive win in the acting category.
“Succession,” the series about a family-owned media empire, scored a win in the writing for a drama series category. The series has been gaining buzz and critical kudos for its second season and is likely to be a favorite for next year’s awards. There was even chatter leading into Sunday that the show might upset “Game of Thrones” and take the drama series trophy.
But whether HBO can retain its creative potency under its new corporate owner, AT&T, remains a question. The network is no longer the insulated boutique that had free rein under previous management.
AT&T is using HBO, a sterling brand name that signified innovation and distinction, to attract subscribers to a new direct-to-consumer streaming service called HBO Max, which will have a broader array of TV shows and movies.
HBO Max will have the services of uber-producer J.J. Abrams, who recently signed a massive overall deal with WarnerMedia. But the service is also the home of “The Big Bang Theory,” which ran for 12 seasons on the broadcast network CBS and not does not really exemplify the mystique of the HBO brand.
While HBO faces its challenges, ad-supported broadcast and cable networks continue to see their share of Emmy glory diminishing.
Only one broadcast show received honors on the night, with NBC’s late-night sketch comedy warhorse “Saturday Night Live” earning trophies for variety sketch series and directing.
On the ad-supported cable side, AMC picked up a win thanks to Jodie Comer’s honor for actress in the drama series"Killing Eve.” FX saw a wins for “Fosse/Verdon” as Michelle Williams was honored actress in a limited series or movie, and Billy Porter for actor in a drama for “Pose.”
ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, and their affiliated production studios, do not invest heavily in the kind of expensive Emmy campaigns and star-studded “for your consideration” events that have become the standard among the streaming services. Their lack of any major promotional push showed up in their virtual absence from the telecast.