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Netflix's original content gets Emmy validation

"House of Cards" is nominated for best drama series, as are its stars for acting, in the first instance of programming that premiered on a digital platform surfacing in marquee Emmy categories.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read
House of Cards

Netflix provided a twist to television history worthy of its political thriller "House of Cards" Thursday, as that original series garnered three Emmy nominations in big categories and the streaming site's homemade revival of "Arrested Development" received one.

"House of Cards" is in the running for a primetime Emmy for outstanding drama series, and its stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are both nominated for acting honors. The Internet's biggest video-streaming site also notched a comedy-series acting nod for Jason Bateman, the lead in "Arrested Development."

As far as historic moments go, the annals of television awards may not be top of the list, but the nominations mark the first time that programs from a digital platform have surfaced in high-profile award categories.

Including lower-profile categories, "House of Cards" got nine Emmy nominations in all, while "Arrested Development" got three. Another Netflix original -- horror thriller "Hemlock Grove" -- snagged two.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix's content chief, said the company was overwhelmed by its 14 nominations.

The "warm welcome...corroborates what we have always believed, that great television is great television regardless of where, when and how it is enjoyed," he said in a statement.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the body that runs the Emmys, appeared to be expecting something along those lines. It recruited Kate Mara, who plays a key role in "House of Cards" alongside Spacey and Wright, to present the nominations. Throwing a wrench into the works, though, Mara pulled out at the last minute, apparently due to mechanical malfunctions on a plane that kept her from getting to the presentation on time.

Changes to Emmy rules in 2008 anointed the Internet as an eligible platform to qualify for an Emmy nomination. Under the new rules, Netflix programs could be nominated just as a YouTube series could. And some YouTube-like content has. But such instances -- like "30 Rock" Webisodes -- have been relegated to low-key categories like short format.

Those changes meant another Netflix original, "Lilyhammer," was eligible for a nomination last year, but "House of Cards" and "Arrested Developments" have gained far more public and critical recognition than the low-profile series from Norway.

Netflix's "House of Cards" and "Arrested Development" were both released in during the period of eligibility, which closed after May 31. Its latest original -- "Orange is the New Black" -- was released after the deadline.

Next year will bring more competition from Internet-based productions, not only from "Orange is the New Black" but also a number of high-profile shows from Amazon.

Emmy nominations aren't known for providing the same kind of business lift to a program or network that an Oscar nomination does for a film. That may be different in Netflix's case, since its programs are accessible on demand with a subscription.

But even if the business effect on Netflix is limited, the nominations are validation that online series are on the same playing field of quality as their traditional television brethren.

Update at 8:25 a.m. PT: Comments from Netflix were added.