This year, Netflix films received eight Oscar nominations. Last year, Amazon’s Manchester By The Sea was the first film by a streaming service to be nominated for Best Picture. The connection between these two events? Netflix and Amazon are streaming services, not traditional movie studios. After years of underestimation and prejudice against them, streaming services have finally begun to gain success during recent award seasons.
All three major streaming services–Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon–have all made great strides with their original content. Netflix has had runaway hit Stranger Things, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale won five awards at the 2017 Primetime Emmy Awards, and Amazon’s Transparent has become an award show mainstay.
Yet in terms of award show recognition, these three shows are anomalies. Most originals have been extremely successful with critics and audiences, but fared worse at award shows in terms of nominations and wins.
Netflix started their original content journey with the extremely successful political drama series House of Cards, based on an identically-named British series. Since then, Netflix has made hundreds of new films and television shows. Fan favorites include Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black and Okja.
Amazon has also received viewer recognition with their original content. Their series Transparent is recognized for being one of the most revolutionary television series in recent history.
These award-winning shows are the exception to the common occurrence for most of these streaming service-produced series. Most original series from streaming services do not get any recognition at award shows or are ignored by the general population. There are a few reasons for this.
Some theorize that the lack of award-winning original films from streaming services is due to the fear that these services will cause the downfall of “traditional moviegoing”. Others believe that they are not received well because this type of film distribution is so new, and it takes a time for the award voters to accept them. Junior Emily Troutman said, “These shows are new and do not have as much recognition because they have not been around as long.”
However, Troutman is also a fan of Netflix originals, showing the dichotomy between audience and critical success: “I think my favorite Netflix original would have to be Black Mirror. I also like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; it’s a fun one!” she said.
Netflix originals have been especially successful with younger generations. “I think this is because it is a lot more accessible. All you really need is a phone or a computer. It’s also pretty inexpensive, a Netflix subscription costs as little as ten dollars,” Troutman explained.
Another successful method used by Netflix to gain popularity for their original series is remaking or making sequels to classic shows. Netflix made Fuller House, the sequel to Full House (the famous sitcom of the late ’80s and early ’90s.) Netflix also continued Arrested Development and revived the show Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Even though original content by streaming services have not been particularly successful in the award circuit, the entertainment industry is starting to warm towards working with them. This is because streaming services tend to make lower-budget but more daring films and shows, something that excites creative minds in Hollywood.
The future of these original films and shows looks bright. “I think there is a big future for these shows because we are shifting more towards streaming services,” Troutman said.
This year, Icarus, a Netflix original, won Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards. This may be one of Netflix’s first major wins at the Oscars, but it certainly will not be its last.
Featured graphic by Rachel Park