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'The Handmaid's Tale' scores Hulu its first major Emmys

After snagging a few Creative Arts Emmys, Hulu picks up major awards for its adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel, including outstanding drama series.

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Hulu nabbed its first big Emmy.

Gabriel Olsen/Getty

Thanks to a dark drama, Hulu had a bright night Sunday.

"The Handmaid's Tale," the streaming service's dystopian drama about fertile women enslaved by a totalitarian regime, nabbed outstanding drama series at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. The recognition for the show broke new ground by marking the first time a streaming service won the honor, and boosted Hulu into the company of its peers, which had won major Emmys earlier. (Disclosure: The Emmys were broadcast on CBS, which is CNET's parent company.) 

The competition for outstanding drama included three Netflix series: "Stranger Things," "House of Cards" and "The Crown."

Hulu swept the award categories for which "The Handmaid's Tale" was nominated. Elisabeth Moss, the show's star, won outstanding lead actress in a drama series and Ann Dowd took home the trophy for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series. The adaptation of Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel also won outstanding directing for a drama series, which went to Reed Morano, and outstanding writing for a drama series. 

The wins are a step forward for Hulu as it looks to catch up to deeper-pocketed rivals Netflix and Amazon, both of which have won critical accolades for their shows. Netflix, in particular, has hit on a successful formula of creating buzzworthy shows like "Orange is the New Black" and "House of Cards" that keep subscribers loyal.

Hulu, which started out as a free, ad-driven streaming site, but has evolved to include subscription options, is hoping to catch some of the same buzz.

This isn't Hulu's first Emmy, exactly -- the platform took home five Creative Arts Emmys earlier this month in categories like outstanding guest actress in a drama series and outstanding cinematography for a single-camera series, most for "The Handmaid's Tale."

This is, however, the first year Hulu has had a sizable presence at the awards show -- with 18 nominations overall -- and the first time it's actually taken home a trophy in a major category. In 2016, Hulu received two Emmy nominations -- one for outstanding writing for a variety special ("Triumph's Election Special") and another for outstanding special visual effects in a supporting role ("11.22.63").

Hulu's budget for content remains lower than its competitors. At an event at the Paley Center for Media last week, CEO Mike Hopkins said Hulu's content budget for 2017 is about $2.5 billion. Netflix's 2017 budget was about $6 billion. Amazon comes in around $4.5 billion.

First published, Sept. 17, 5:54 p.m. PT.
Update, 8:07 p.m. PT:
Adds additional Hulu Emmy wins.