Apple TV+ Makes History with First Primetime Emmy Award in First Year of Operation

Emmy Awards Credit: Joe Seer / Shutterstock
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Apple TV+ has just made history by being the first streaming service to win a Primetime Emmy award in its first year of operation — and from one of its debut shows no less.

Apple received an unprecedented 18 Emmy award nominations earlier this year, eight of which were for its early hit, The Morning Show, which had already made a name for itself by racking up nominations for two Golden Globe Awards and several Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards before its first season had even finished its initial run.

Among the eight Primetime Emmy nominations were Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Jennifer Aniston’s starring role and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Steve Carell’s portrayal of Mitch Kessler.

Billy Crudup and Mark Duplass also each received nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, while Martin Short was even up for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, and director Mimi Leder got a nomination for outstanding directing.

The remaining two nominations covered production design and main title design, however Apple was shut out completely for the most prestigious Outstanding Drama title — an award that ultimately went to HBO’s Succession, along with the nods for Lead Actor and Actress and 27 other wins for HBO in general.

In the end, Apple walked away with only a single actual Primetime Emmy win, with Billy Crudup beating out his colleague Mark Duplass along with Giancarlo Esposito from Better Call Saul, Nicholas Braun, Kieran Culkin, and Matthew Macfadyen of HBO’s Succession, Bradley Whitford of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Jeffrey Wright of Westworld fame.

However, much like Jennifer Aniston’s first SAG award for Apple TV+, it’s a pretty big deal for a streaming service that didn’t even exist a year ago, and certainly validates the large sums of money that Apple has been pouring into Apple TV+, and especially into The Morning Show, where it has effectively made Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon the highest-paid TV stars in Hollywood history.

Notably, Crudup also walked away with a 2020 Critics’ Choice Award earlier this year for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama, which many critics agreed was well deserved, with some having said that his portrayal of Cory Ellison “may well be the single best television character of the year.”

What This All Means

To be fair, as great as it is to win Emmy awards — and it’s notable that Apple is getting this level of recognition so early in the game — it’s also something that arguably only really matters to Hollywood insiders.

While Apple will undoubtedly garner a few new subscribers as a result of this prompting some to give the service a closer look, the real win here is going to come from Apple increasing its Hollywood cachet.

Apple has already shown that it’s willing to spend real money to attract real talent, and the cast of The Morning Show along with landmark deals with folks like Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Martin Scorsese, and Oprah shows that its strategy is already working.

However, not everybody has been as equally impressed, and Apple has discovered that offering the biggest bag of money isn’t always enough to woo top talent; it’s lost a few key deals already as a result of major directors like J.J. Abrams feeling that their projects won’t have nearly the exposure, reputation, or reach on the fledgling streaming service as they would elsewhere.

This is why Apple has been preparing to win Oscars and Emmys from long before Apple TV+ even launched, hiring people with awards strategy experience to create campaigns and figure out how to court Hollywood’s favour to make sure content gets the attention of the movers and shakers in Hollywood and that its content has been in the running from the very beginning.

Based on what we’ve already seen this year, the strategy seems to have been working out. While many of its streaming rivals received far more nominations — HBO got 107 and Netflix got 160, dwarfing Apple’s 18, it’s worth keeping in mind that as of the cutoff date — May 31, 2020 — Apple only had 26 shows eligible for Emmy consideration at all, while Netflix and HBO were coming into this not only with years of experience but hundreds of titles, by comparison.

Apple’s 18 nominations set a record for the most to be received by a streaming service in its first year of operation, surpassing the 14 nominations that Netflix received back in 2013.

However, it’s possible to split hairs here a bit, as Netflix had been operating as a streaming service for years prior to that, but 2013 was the first year it released its own original content, and it did win a Primetime Emmy that year for Best Director for David Fincher’s work on House of Cards — the first ever to be awarded to a streaming service at all.

Regardless of Apple’s prior experience in producing Macs, iPhones, iPads, or even its Apple Music service, there’s no question that its Apple TV+ service is an entirely new endeavour, and while it’s obviously launching it to a more mature market, that also just means that there’s more competition out there too, so the fact that it’s off to such a solid start in getting recognition within the industry bodes well for the future of Apple’s original productions and its ability to continue attracting even more top-tier talent to work on them.

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