Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale won the Emmy award for Best Drama Series on Sunday night, the first time that a streaming service has snagged the show’s top award.
In many ways, this is a surprising news peg (Hulu?!) for an unsurprising story (the rise of streaming television). Hulu is a distant third behind Netflix and Amazon in the streaming wars, which makes last night’s underdog achievement impressive. But it was only a matter of time before a streaming company took home an award for best series. Netflix has been nominated for top drama or comedy several times—for House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Master of None, and Amazon has earned several nods for Transparent.
Meanwhile, the growth of prestige television on streaming services is part of the long term decline of critical darlings on broadcast television (NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox). The last broadcast production to win the Emmy for top drama was 24, on Fox, in 2006. While comedies like 30 Rock (NBC) and Modern Family (ABC) have thrived at the Emmy’s in the last decade, HBO's Veep has won the last three awards for best comedy series. Critically acclaimed shows aren’t the only thing in decline on broadcast television. Everything else is, too. Out of 78 prime-time broadcast series that aired in both 2016 and 2017, only one—ABC’s The Bachelor—increased its viewership among people under 50.