Golden Globes: Why cable and streaming shows dominate the TV nominations

Broadcast TV programs are almost entirely absent from the Golden Globes TV nominees, with Fox's 'Empire' being the only broadcast show to make the cut for the best drama series or best comedy series nominations. What does this say about TV?

Ali Goldstein/Amazon Studios/AP
'Mozart in the Jungle' stars Gael Garcia Bernal (l.) and Malcolm McDowell (r.).

While the films selected by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to receive Golden Globes often become part of the Oscars season conversation, the TV prizes given out by the HFPA also often provide an interesting look at where TV is now. 

And this year, the nominees for the major prizes of best drama series and best comedy series show the dominance of cable and streaming programs, as only one broadcast TV show (Fox’s “Empire” – a first-year show, no less) made the cut for either category. All the other nominees for both awards were from cable or streaming, the latter being a form of TV that has experienced a meteoric rise. 

Cable is a force in the drama category, with HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” USA’s “Mr. Robot,” and Starz’s “Outlander” all contending for the prize. Netflix’s “Narcos” also made the cut, as did "Empire."

Meanwhile, streaming programs dominated the comedy category. Four of the six nominees are from streaming (Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle” and “Transparent,” Hulu’s “Casual,” and Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black”). Meanwhile, HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and “Veep” made the cut, too. 

Is this a huge shift? Nominees each year of course depend on TV offerings and the whims of the HFPA. The dominance of cable and climb of streaming can be seen in the Golden Globes TV series nominees of the past several years, though more broadcast shows usually made the cut.

Last year, only CBS’s “The Good Wife” (drama) and the CW’s “Jane the Virgin” (comedy) received nominations in terms of broadcast shows. The year before, almost all the comedy series nominees were from broadcast, but they were all excluded this year (one, “Parks and Recreation,” is over).

These nominees aren’t surprising for our current TV landscape. HBO has been a force at awards shows for years – it’s been 17 years since its acclaimed show “The Sopranos” debuted. Other cable networks have also become contenders in these categories.

But these contenders show how widespread TV of quality is now. Netflix is a force, but cable networks like USA and Starz and streaming services like Hulu are on the rise, too. 

And they demonstrate just how quickly streaming has established itself in the pop culture conversation and at awards shows. 

Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, points out that streaming has gone from winning its first high-profile Emmy Award in 2013 with "House of Cards" to dominating the comedy series Golden Globes category in 2016. 

In terms of the lack of broadcast shows, Mr. Thompson says in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor, “If people were taken aback by how few broadcast were there... they haven't been paying attention.” 

He says both cable and streaming have advantages in terms of being able to produce good programming. 

“They've got a great advantage of having shortened seasons,” he points out. A show like Amazon’s “Transparent” airs 10 episodes a season, while a show like CBS’s “The Good Wife” usually airs 22.

These nominees could also be an indicator of what network or streaming service is about to become a big presence, too. Thompson points to Hulu, which he says hasn’t had a culture-dominating hit yet. 

But “they're poised to do a lot of things,” he says.

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