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2021 major Emmy nominees are the most popular in today's streaming era

14 July, 2021

With WandaVision and The Mandalorian racking up a combined 46 Emmy nominations, this year’s awards will see some of the most popular television shows front and center.

In fact, US audience demand for TV series nominated for 5 or more major Emmys has grown 65.5% over the last five years. Analyzed data clearly shows that the Television Academy’s voting body is consistently becoming more in-line with average consumers. 

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Parrot Analytics data confirms that top nominated shows at the Emmys have steadily grown year over year in audience demand over the last half decade thanks to shows like Game of Thrones and Stranger Things. While the Emmys still acknowledge and reward dramas driven by auteur directors and abstract comedies, an increase in genre entertainment directly relates to higher demand for series being celebrated. 

Or, put another way, the type of popular shows that prestige cable channels and streaming services fought to be recognized by the Television Academy several years ago are finally being seen as worthy contenders. Remember, at one point HBO had to fight to get Game of Thrones taken seriously. 

Game of Thrones and Stranger Things aren’t nominated this year, but their place is taken by two of the biggest franchises in the world — Star Wars and Marvel. With deeper ties to much larger film franchises, the overall fanfare for Disney+’s powerhouse shows is much higher than prestige series like Mare of Easttown, which is more inline with the type of series once more prevalent in the nomination process. 

In 2017 Emmy voters rewarded more character-focused drama and comedy series like Veep, Silicon Valley, and Better Call Saul. While these series did have loyal fanbases, they only cracked the lower levels of our ‘Outstanding’ category of demand. 

The trend has since moved to more popular franchise and genre fare, led by Stranger Things and Game of Thrones in 2019 (where average demand for the top series grew 55% compared to 2018), which saw unprecedented peak audience demand for a digital original and overall series, respectively, that year. 

This year, the big entrant is WandaVision. Marvel Studios is only three shows into its new television division on Disney+, but WandaVision peaked at 34.76x the average demand in the United States coming in at an exceptional rating — something that only 0.2% of all shows accomplish. Turns out Emmy voters were also enthralled with the show. 

This data provides hard evidence to back up a trend that many analysts and reporters have suspected: the Television Academy and US audiences are growing closer together in what they consider to be great television. Emmy voters have traditionally stuck with the same series and talent year after year when it comes to nominations (even if those shows or talent don’t win), but the proliferation of streaming and increase in demand for shows across certain platforms have become seemingly impossible for the Academy to ignore. 

Despite undeniable growth in average demand for series with each passing year, ratings for the Emmys continue to drop. Ratings for the 2017 Emmys came in at 11.4 million, but that number has slid to just over 6 million by 2020, a nearly 50% drop in just a few years. The correlation between shows that general audiences are watching and obsessing over to viewers tuning into the Emmys isn’t there. 

Although, that might have nothing to do with the increase in high-demand shows. The majority of shows, including those in-demand are on streaming services (or premium cable networks that have a streaming counterpart), but the Emmys remain on broadcast television, which younger audiences are drifting away from. 

It’s a catch 22; if broadcast television isn’t represented at the Emmys as much anymore (save for some massively in-demand shows like Saturday Night Live), is it time for the award show to move to a platform where viewers are watching the most in-demand content? 

That’s an ongoing conversation that doesn’t have any clear answer yet. What is abundantly clear is that the Emmy is increasingly including shows that are striking a chord with large swaths of television consumers in the United States, and therefore demand for shows that appear at “television’s biggest night” is only going to increase. 

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