As TV world shifts, HBO retains its Emmy swagger
The logo for HBO,Home Box Office, the American premium cable television network, owned by Time Warner, is pictured during the HBO presentation at the Cable portion of the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California August 1, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
By Piya Sinha-Roy and Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When fictional columnist Carrie Bradshaw helped HBO grab its first series Emmy award in 2001 for comedy "Sex and the City," the premium cable network's main competition came from broadcast networks CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox.
Today, the field fighting for Emmy glory includes contenders from the past few years like basic cable channels AMC and FX, but also the much talked-about rookie, the video streaming service Netflix
Nowhere is the revolution in how people watch television more apparent than when the TV industry gathers on Sunday for its annual prime time Emmy awards ceremony.
Among the contenders for the night's top drama trophy are AMC's "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men," Showtime's "Homeland," Netflix's "House of Cards," and PBS's British period drama "Downton Abbey."
And, of course, HBO. The network has earned the most nominations for 13 straight years, and will compete for best drama on Sunday with its medieval fantasy series "Game of Thrones."
In all, HBO collected 108 nominations this year, its highest total since 2004, and more than twice as many as its closest competitors, CBS and NBC with 53 each. The nods include best comedy nominations for HBO's "Veep" and "Girls."
"'Breaking Bad' and Netflix might not exist like they do without HBO having led the way in showing that really smart adult dramas could draw an audience," "Breaking Bad" producer Tom Schnauz told Reuters.
HBO landed its first series Emmy award for outstanding comedy in 2001 for its ground-breaking, female-led show "Sex and the City," starring Sarah Jessica Parker as fictional New York journalist Carrie Bradshaw.
This year, basic cable networks AMC
Despite the growing number of critically acclaimed series across multiple networks, producers of shows at channels competing with HBO still see it as the leading provider of original content.
"AMC is a real competitor to HBO, but HBO still has the programming," "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner told Reuters. "Mad Men," an Emmy darling in years past, is nominated in 12 categories this year, including best drama series.
As the industry evolved, HBO built ties with top Hollywood actors, producers and writers, and consistently churned out award-winning series, movies and documentaries.
"They have a two-decade-deep pipeline of development and artists' relationships, and a reputation for taking risks," said Modi Wiczyk, co-chief executive of Media Rights Capital, an independent studio that has produced shows for HBO, Netflix, CBS and ABC.
'A UNIQUE ASSET'
In addition to hauling in critical praise and awards, HBO is a key profit driver for its media company parent, Time Warner Inc
HBO and sister channel Cinemax likely will generate $1.7 billion in cash flow this year, according to research firm SNL Kagan. Global subscribers to HBO reached 114 million last year, more than any other competitor, Time Warner said in its 2012 annual report.