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Emmy nominations leave major networks as odd men out

LOS ANGELES– The Emmy nominations displayed TV’s diversity on multiple levels, spreading the wealth among a dizzying variety of networks and streami...
2016 Emmy Nominations

LOS ANGELES– The Emmy nominations displayed TV’s diversity on multiple levels, spreading the wealth among a dizzying variety of networks and streaming services. But there was an odd man out in the voting: broadcast television.

The nominations unveiled by the Television Academy on Thursday reflected both the breadth of what currently qualifies as television and newer players’ heightened ambition in terms of prestige fare.

In the best drama series category, for example, the seven nominated programs came from seven different networks or streaming services. Including the seven best comedy nominees, nine sources delivered the 14 nominees — and that doesn’t even include a breakthrough by Crackle, the streaming site that earned an unexpected variety-series nomination for Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” and pulled down three nominations in all.

As usual, HBO led the way in terms of overall nominations, although its total of 94 represented the pay channel’s lowest since 2012 — dropping from a record 126 last year. “Game of Thrones” again amassed the most recognition of any program.

But in a break from tradition, this year’s runner-up wasn’t one of the major broadcast networks but FX, a basic cable channel, which garnered 22 and 18 nominations for its limited series “The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” and “Fargo,” respectively.

FX’s 56 total Emmy bids were followed closely by Netflix, at 54, before getting to broadcasters NBC (41), ABC and CBS (35 each) and Fox (29).

PBS’ “Downton Abbey” was the lone broadcast program to earn a best drama nomination. Like “The Good Wife,” which was overlooked, the period drama aired its series finale earlier this year.

ABC did receive best-comedy bids for perennial nominee “Modern Family” and “Black-ish,” as well as the second edition of “American Crime,” the only broadcast nominee in the limited-series category.

Even late night, usually a reliable bastion for the major networks, took a small hit. Crackle’s unexpected inclusion, and nods to HBO’s series hosted by Bill Maher and John Oliver, left Stephen Colbert on the sidelines. Nominations went to network shows fronted by ratings leader Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden, whose CBS program follows Colbert’s “Late Show.” (Without Jon Stewart, a cable stalwart in the category, “The Daily Show,” was also left out in the cold.)

If there’s any consolation for the networks, it’s that awards recognition doesn’t necessarily correspond very closely with its core mission: ratings. FX’s “The Americans,” for example, finally broke through in the best-drama voting, while earning nods for stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. But the series has never been a particularly strong ratings draw, and this spring FX announced a renewal that will allow the producers to wrap up the show after two more seasons.

At the same time, cable and streaming services have seen value in engaging a small but passionate audience, using such franchises to enhance their profile and strengthen their bonds with subscribers.

Yet for the four major networks, there’s a somewhat bitter aspect to that formula. Those broadcasters share rights to televise the Emmys on a rotating basis. For years that meant they got to host an annual party to celebrate and promote themselves; now, they’re showcasing their competitors. This year’s ceremony will air Sept. 18 on ABC.