LOS ANGELES — Kevin Spacey loves being part of what he calls “a new paradigm”: Internet television that’s just as compelling and well produced as anything on a cable or broadcast channel.
Spacey was nominated for an Emmy Award last week for his leading role in “House of Cards,” the Netflix original series that collected nine bids in all.
And Jason Bateman of “Arrested Development,” also on Netflix, was nominated for best actor in a comedy series
“I’m so happy for the series and so happy for Netflix ... because it’s a big acknowledgement of the show and its quality,” said Spacey, also an executive producer.
“For us to have broken through in ... so many categories, nine nominations, for what is really, in many ways, a new paradigm, is so thrilling.”
It was a breakthrough moment for shows making a splash without the aid of a TV set.
The video universe that once meant simply broadcast television, then added cable and satellite, has splintered again to encompass websites including YouTube and streaming services including Netflix and Amazon.
The expansion was recognized in 2008 by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a rules change that added the Internet as an eligible Emmy platform.
As with broadcast networks and other video distributors, programs must reach more than half of the U.S. audience to make the cut.
There have been Internet nominees before, such as last year’s “Web Therapy” and “30 Rock: The Webisodes” in a short-format category, but not in the premier fields of acting and best series.
And Internet TV is a new frontier with new rules.
For example, Netflix didn’t require “House of Cards” to begin with a pilot episode introducing the main characters and story lines, freeing the writers to create natural suspense in an evolving story.
“It changes the creative process of how you write a show,” said Spacey, 53. “When they gave us an order of 26 episodes, or chapters, as we like to call them, that was a remarkable thing for us because it meant that we could just get on with telling the story.”
The way the show is distributed, all 13 episodes available at once, also offers audiences more choices about how to consume it.
Such creative flexibility draws film writers, directors and actors, such as Spacey, to the TV landscape.
“For storytellers who want to tell stories that are driven by character and not by explosions and things that only, in a sense, appeal to the heartbeat or the pulse and not the mind, then it makes sense to me that the best writers and directors and actors and storytellers are going to go to the ground where it is fertile,” he said. “It’s very fertile now, obviously. The streaming business is fertile, and the television business in its usual sense.”
As for this year’s game-change, “It certainly is a marker of the new era. ... It will send shock waves through the industry,” said Tim Brooks, a former network executive and TV historian who co-wrote “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows.”
The Emmys rarely provide a ratings boost akin to the box-office advantage that can be conferred by Oscar or Tony honors, but Brooks said they are meaningful to industry insiders.
“It makes it acceptable for A-list creatives to work for you. They like awards and the acclaim of their fellows,” he said.
Good programming thus begets more good programming and, for services such as Netflix, potentially more revenue-producing subscribers.
Garth Ancier, a former network chief and an Emmy voter, received DVDs of Net-flix’s series as part of the usual lobbying efforts that surround awards.
“I was kind of surprised, because I don’t really think of Netflix as being television,” Ancier said. It also seems “sort of odd the academy is so up-to-date. That said, ‘House of Cards’ is great stuff and it does make sense.”
For nearly four decades after the 1949 inception of the Emmys, eligibility was limited to programs that aired on free television, including networks, syndication and PBS. Finally, the gates swung open.
“By 1988, a critical mass of our members were making TV shows distributed on cable platforms” and believed their shows were on par with those airing on broadcast, according to awards director John Leverence. The board of governors agreed and voted in the change.
Before then, however, a frustrated cable industry created an alternative platform for honors, the CableAce Awards, which began in 1979 and ended in 1998 after cable shows became an entrenched part of the Emmys.
So entrenched, in fact, that in some categories, particularly for dramas and miniseries, cable stars like “Breaking Bad” and “Homeland” now dominate. It’s been an ongoing frustration for broadcasters, who say federal rules bar them from competing with the more explicit fare available on cable.
Lynn Elber, AP Television Writer, contributed to this story.
Kevin Spacey, who stars as U.S. Congressman Frank Underwood in the Netflix original series “House of Cards,” an adaptation of a British classic, was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding drama series.×
Will Arnett (left) and Jason Bateman in a scene from “Arrested Development,” also on Netflix. Bateman was nominated for an Emmy Award for best actor in a comedy series.×
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