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SVOD Emmy Breakthrough: Hulu's 'Handmaid's Tale' Wins Best Drama Series

17 Sep, 2017 By: John Latchem

In the long history of the primetime Emmy Awards, a show not from a broadcast network wouldn't win in either the best comedy or drama series categories until 2001, when HBO's "Sex and the City" won Outstanding Comedy Series at the 53rd annual ceremony.

Broadcast networks had a monopoly on Outstanding Drama Series until 2004, when HBO's "The Sopranos" won in the 56th year of the awards.

Now, big wins from prestige cable programming are a matter of course. A broadcast series hasn't won the top drama show award since Fox's "24" took the honor in 2006.

In 2012, subscription video-on-demand services joined the original programming fray, first with Netflix, then rivals such as Hulu and Amazon Prime, using Internet access to advance the latest evolution of distribution for televised content.

And so, within five years subscription streaming services have reached the milestone it took its premium cable brethren decades to accomplish.

At the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, held Sept. 17 in Los Angeles, the first season of Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale" became the first SVOD-exclusive series to win a best series award, when it was named Outstanding Drama Series by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

"Handmaid's Tale," based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood, won a total of eight Emmys between the primetime ceremony and the creative arts awards a week earlier, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Elisabeth Moss, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Ann Dowd, Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series for Alexis Bledel, and nods for writing, directing, cinematography and production design.

Netflix enjoyed a fair amount of success of its own, with John Lithgow's turn as Winston Churchill in season one of "The Crown" winning Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, and Black Mirror: San Junipero taking Outstanding Television Movie.

Premium cabler HBO enjoyed a healthy haul as well. The sixth season of "Veep," recently released on DVD and Blu-ray, won five Emmys, with the show taking Outstanding Comedy Series for the third consecutive year. Star Julia Louis-Dreyfus won another Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, which means she has now won for each season of "Veep." Her career total of acting Emmys is now eight, having earlier won a lead actress trophy for "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and a supporting Emmy for "Seinfeld." (She also gets credit for three more Emmys as a producer of "Veep"; needless to say her list of career accolades is its own Wikipedia page.)

HBO's Big Little Lies, also available on DVD and Blu-ray, won eight Emmys, including Outstanding Limited Series. It also took Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for Nicole Kidman, while Laura Dern and Alexander Skarsgård won in the supporting categories.

In addition, Riz Ahmed won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for HBO's The Night Of, which is readily available on home video.

NBC's "This Is Us," recently released on DVD by 20th Fox Century Fox Home Entertainment, won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Sterling K. Brown.

For a complete list of winners, visit Emmys.com.

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