TV’s Disruption On Display As Netflix And Amazon Go Head-To-Head At Golden Globes

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More proof that good television doesn’t have to be developed by traditional industry players: Amazon has now received its first Golden Globe nominations for the Amazon Prime Instant Video original show Transparent, which follows the story of a family dealing with the late-in-life revelation that the family’s patriarch (Jeffrey Tambor) is transgender. This is Amazon’s third scripted show after its entry into original programming last year, and the show itself has been nominated for Best Comedy, while star Tambor has earned the Best Actor nod.

The Golden Globes may bring further attention to Amazon’s Netflix rival, Prime Instant Video, which is one of the benefits that comes with the company’s $99/year membership program, Amazon Prime. In addition to free streaming movies and shows, Prime members receive free two-day shipping, access to Kindle’s Lending Library and unlimited cloud storage for photos, among other things.

Unlike Netflix, Amazon tests its original series with its audience first, releasing pilots on its streaming service and then choosing what to greenlight based on audience response and viewing behavior. To date, Amazon has greenlit a good handful of original shows, including Alpha House, Betas, Transparent, The After, Bosch, Mozart in the Jungle, Tumble Leaf, Annebots, Creative Galaxy, Hand of God (2015), and Red Oaks (2015) – some of which are aimed at kids.

orange is the new black

Transparent’s nom is not the first time that an Internet TV provider has earned a nod from a TV/movie industry awards show – Netflix recently received dozens of Emmy nominations for its original shows House of Cards, Arrested Development and others. And Netflix’s House of Cards earned 9 Emmy nominations last year – becoming the first online-only web series to receive such a nomination. The show also received four Golden Globe noms, and director David Fincher and actress Robin Wright both brought home a statue for their work.

This year, however, will present an interesting battle as both Amazon and Netflix are up for the Best TV Series (Musical or Comedy) Golden Globe. Transparent is facing off against Netflix’s original show, Orange is the New Black which is now on Season 2. (The show competed last year as a drama.) The other three nominations were from more traditional networks, with HBO’s Girls and Silicon Valley, plus CW’s new show Jane the Virgin, filling out the rest of the category.

Because of the power network studios had over their content and its distribution, television hasn’t been as quick to have been disrupted by the Internet as other industries, like music or books. But now that there are large companies with large bankrolls that are capable of funding their own studios, as Netflix does and Amazon does via its Amazon Studios arm, things are starting to change.

The result is that many viewers aren’t just watching the new, streaming shows – they’re cutting the cord and ditching cable, too. Though that’s been a small but growing trend for years now, a new, albeit small, study here in the U.S. indicates that roughly a quarter of U.S. customers are now asking for Internet-only service from their cable providers.

There are enough people watching these programs – Internet TV now reaches 40 percent of U.S. homes – for Nielsen to begin to measure these services, too. The company announced last month that it would begin to track Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video shows by analyzing the audio of the shows being streamed in order to identify them.

Nielsen’s data also revealed the impact of streaming video: TV viewing was down 7 percent year-over-year as of October among the 18-49-year-old demographic.

On a personal note, with HBO GO’s standalone service now on the near horizon, my final tie to cable TV has been severed as well. I moved to a new house this week and opted for streaming video only with Prime, Hulu and Netflix now taking the place of the cable TV subscription.