Netflix Fails to Sweep the Emmys, Like That Matters

"Trophies are for chumps." - a thing we can imagine Reed Hastings saying in all seriousness.

Netflix's chief content officer and VP of original content turned out. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Variety)

Netflix’s chief content officer and VP of original content turned out. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Variety)

Another awards show season kicked off last night with the Emmys, featuring an overexposed Neal Patrick Harris and way too many tributes to celebs we’ve lost.

But last night was also Netflix’s first big, black-tie outing as a content creator, rather than simply a distributor. The company went into the ceremony with 14 nominations, two wins at the Creative Arts Emmys, and a boatload of breathless think pieces about what it all means.

After all that buildup, though, they didn’t exactly sweep. David Fincher (who skipped the ceremony) took home a statuette for directing, but best actor went to Jeff Daniels for The Newsroom (ugh) and Breaking Bad won for overall drama (duh). As the Wall Street Journal‘s headline put it: “Netflix Makes Some History With Showing at Emmys.” Not a lot of history; just a smidgen.

But it doesn’t take Frank Underwood to see that Netflix didn’t have to win any trophies to get what they came for.

Take Kevin Spacey’s performance on the red carpet before the show started. The actor has become quite the company man, trumpeting the promise of Netflix to unsettle the status quo. As he ambled into the theater he told the Hollywood Reporter that their inclusion in the awards “represents a new paradigm for the industry,” and “It shows that the Academy has a modern, progressive streak.”

The best moment of the iffy opener was when Mr. Spacey turned to the camera in character as Frank Underwood and delivered one of his slimy soliloquies. (It’s not a niche phenomenon if you can make a joke about it on CBS.) Later in the evening, TMZ gave Corey Stoll, who played hot mess Peter Russo, the celebrity treatment, accosting him and asking how it felt to be snubbed: “Nobody cares about that stuff.”

Netflix’s showing last night feels a little like credit card thieves testing stolen plastic at a gas station before trying their luck with larger purchases. And as the Washington Post points out, cable wasn’t eligible for Emmys until 1988; can you imagine having to pick winners from the dreck that’s available on the networks nowadays? We like to imagine that CEO Reed Hastings (who doesn’t seem to have attended) was watching the broadcast back at home and scheming, House of Cards-like, on next year’s festivities.

Anyway, none of this matters a hill of beans unless these fancy original content initiatives end up translating into more subscribers and more money for Netflix. And so far, the company isn’t talking.