A year ago, the big story around Emmy nominations was the acclaim showered on cable programs like “Mad Men” and “Damages.” A quick glance at today’s nominations indicates little has changed.
Just look at the best drama category, where Fox’s “House” and ABC’s “Lost” will face stiff competition from cable’s “Big Love” (HBO), “Mad Men” (AMC), “Damages” (FX), and “Breaking Bad” (AMC).
While the Emmy awards aren’t everything — ratings are still the holy grail — they certainly don’t hurt. Particularly when it comes to cable networks, which have built a reputation for developing more sophisticated, bolder programs than the broadcast counterparts.
While ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox are under heavy pressure from advertisers (and their corporate parents) to show immediate results, the cable networks can take more care with their programs. After all, they draw some revenue from carriage deals and subscriptions, which buys shows like “Breaking Bad” some time to develop.
That seems to be paying dividends — and not only when it comes to awards. While broadcast TV advertising rates are still at a sizable premium to cable, most advertising executives say the gap is shrinking. Couple that with carriage fees and a generally lower cost structure and you see why TV executives like NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker spend so much time talking up their cable assets.