One of the biggest winners in TV at the Golden Globes was the Amazon original series Transparent, which took home the trophies for best series and best actor in the musical or comedy category. Those wins mark Amazon’s first major awards for its original television content since launching its Prime streaming service. That service was meant to compete with the online TV streaming industry dominator Netflix, which also had success with its original series House of Cards at the Globes. Star Kevin Spacey beat out some formidable competition in the drama category to take home the prize for best actor.
Transparent has been named by critics as one of the best shows of the year. The series stars Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor as a man named Mort, who after being married and raising three children into adulthood, transitions into being a woman called Maura, recognizing what she’s felt her entire life to be her true gender.
One big advantage that streaming services have is freedom from needing to worry about ratings or other standards networks have placed on them. A show like Transparent really pushes boundaries and likely wouldn’t have been picked up by a typical network. Now awards committees are telling the television world that they want more edgy storytelling about people on the margins, a desire that streaming services are filling.
While streaming services don’t post ratings or earn their revenue from them the way that traditional networks do, some are paying attention to how many people are watching. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners recently released the results of a study, which found that less than 40% of Amazon Prime members have watched even one episode of Transparent.
“Since HBO first identifies as a television network, it does not surprise us that HBO Go subscribers are the most frequent viewers of their proprietary programming,” said Josh Lowitz, partner and co-founder of CIRP. “In contrast, Amazon Prime primarily attracts members for its 2-day shipping. As the service for the lowest penetration for its proprietary programming, the Golden Globes for Transparent suggest that Amazon Prime customers miss some great, award-winning material.”
For House of Cards, a little over 60% of Netflix subscribers had seen at least one episode, while close to 80% of Netflix customers had seen Orange Is the New Black at least once. Those figures were much closer to the percentages that HBO Go was showing for its viewership.
Of course, everything wasn’t perfect in the online streaming world at the Golden Globes. The absence of the prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black in the nominations was considered a major snub, given the glowing reviews the show’s second season received when it came out over the summer. OITNB is one of Netflix’s most-watched shows while simultaneously being a critical darling, and several members of the show’s large ensemble cast were nominated for Emmy awards. At the Globes, only Uzo Aduba was nominated in the supporting category.
Netflix has long tried to argue on its crusade to change the television landscape that the viewership of its shows doesn’t really matter. The success of Transparent at the Golden Globes seems to suggest that in online streaming that perspective is right. While many Amazon Prime customers as well as those who haven’t crossed over to online streaming may be missing out on the show, it seems that as online streaming grows its original offerings, those shows will continue to be taken seriously by critics and awards shows. Perhaps due to online streaming services, viewership no longer matters for success in television?
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