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HBO reclaims Emmys throne from Netflix, with 137 nominations

Game of Thrones
Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in “Game of Thrones.”
(Helen Sloane / HBO)

Thanks to the final season of long-running hit “Game of Thrones” and second-year comedy “Barry,” HBO reclaimed its position as a critical favorite, capturing 137 nominations for the 2019 Emmy Awards, the most of any network and topping streaming rival Netflix.

The Television Academy announced Tuesday that “Game of Thrones” earned 32 nominations — the most of any series this year and a new all-time record — including best drama. “Game of Thrones” has won 47 Emmys, the most of any prime-time series.

“Barry,” starring Bill Hader as a hit man turned actor, scored 17 nominations, the most of any HBO comedy series. NBC’s sketch comedy program “Saturday Night Live” earned 18 nominations.

HBO also got a significant boost from “Chernobyl,” the limited series about the 1986 nuclear reactor disaster from screenwriter-director Craig Mazin, which earned 19 nominations, ranking third behind “Game of Thrones” and Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

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Another long-running HBO favorite, “Veep,” earned nine nominations for its final season, including best comedy and best actress in a comedy for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who has won six times — the most for any performer in a single role.

HBO returned to the top of the Emmy nominations heap after seeing its 17-year streak stopped in 2018 by Netflix. But its regained reign may be temporary. Netflix’s 117 nominations topped its record of 112 set last year and came without its most heralded original series — “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” — neither of which ran during this year’s eligibility period for the Emmys, which ended May 31.

The winners of the major awards will be announced in a Sept. 22 ceremony broadcast on Fox.

The Emmys have become an essential tool for networks and streaming services to market their shows to viewers faced with an ever-expanding number of choices. The rapidly growing Emmy track record for streaming services has become a lure for top actors and producers.

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Television Academy members who vote on the awards have a fondness for returning favorites, which helped HBO at a time when it is experiencing institutional upheaval under AT&T, its new owner. AT&T is using HBO, long the best brand name in television, to drive consumers to a new direct-to-consumer streaming service called HBO Max, which will have a broader array of TV shows and movies.

Whether changes in corporate strategy dilute the mystique that enabled HBO to dominate the Emmy competition in recent years remains to be seen. The premium cable network shattered its previous record of 126 nominations set in 2015. But the burgeoning strength of Netflix, which is expected to spend $15 billion on programming this year — up from $12 billion in 2018 — is only becoming more apparent.

Netflix was bolstered by 16 nominations for the 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.

The service also saw 13 nominations for the comedy series “Russian Doll,”and four nominations for “The Kominsky Method.” The drama series “Ozark” earned nine nominations.

Neither HBO nor Netflix commented on the nominations, beyond providing a list of their hauls.

Amazon also had a strong showing, with 47 nominations — up from 22 last year — including two in the comedy category with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a winner last year, and “Fleabag,” a BBC co-production from writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who is also the show’s star and was nominated for best actress. Rachel Brosnahan, who won a best actress trophy last year for “Mrs. Maisel,” was nominated again. “Fleabag” received a total of 11 nominations, while “Mrs. Maisel” received 20.

The growth of streaming television continued to put an Emmy squeeze on the broadcast networks. Last year’s leader, NBC, saw its nomination total drop from 78 to 58. CBS has 43 followed by ABC (26) and Fox (18).

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, along with their associated 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.

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Walt Disney Co.’s FX led all ad-supported cable networks with 32 nominations, down from 50 last year. FX’s “Fosse/Verdon” scored 17 nominations, the second most of any limited drama series.

CBS Corporation’s premium cable network Showtime scored 18 nominations, down from 21 last year. Twelve were for its well-received limited drama series “Escape At Dannemora,” starring Benicio del Toro, Paul Dano and Patricia Arquette. All three actors were nominated for their performances in the true life prison break saga.

AMC Networks scored 26 nominations over its four channels, AMC, BBC America, Sundance and IFC, a major improvement over last year’s haul of 10. “Killing Eve” accounted for nine nominations, while “Better Call Saul” and a spinoff short-form series earned 11.

Both series were nominated for best drama. “Killing Eve” costars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer will compete in the best actress category. “Better Call Saul” star Bob Odenkirk was nominated in the best actor category for the fourth time.

“We are overjoyed to see so many of our shows our shows recognized today, affirming AMC Networks as a company whose shows ignite audiences, critics and Emmy voters even at a time that is more crowded and competitive than ever before,” Sarah Barnett, president of the entertainment networks group at AMC, said in a statement.

Pop TV, an ad-supported cable network owned by CBS Corp., earned its first Emmy nominations with “Schitt’s Creek” which will contend in the best comedy category, against “Barry,” “Fleabag,” NBC’s “The Good Place,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Russian Doll” and “Veep.”

The series starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara — both nominated in comedy lead acting categories — was commissioned by Canada’s CBC. It has slowly developed a strong cult following in the U.S. since it began its run on Pop in 2015.

Along with a nod for best drama, the 32 nominations for “Game of Thrones,” included lead actor in a drama Series (Kit Harington), lead actress in a drama series (Emilia Clarke), four for supporting actress (Gwendoline Christie, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams), three for supporting actor (Alfie Allen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage), guest actress (Carice van Houten), direction (David Nutter, Miguel Sapochnik, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss,) and writing (Benioff and Weiss).

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“Game of Thrones” will compete in the best drama category against “Better Call Saul,” “Killing Eve,""Ozark,” FX’s “Pose,” HBO’s “Succession,” Netflix’s “Bodyguard” and NBC’s “This Is Us.”


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