How many of you remember the CableACE Awards? They were originally created in 1978 as a means for recognizing cable programming in an era when the Emmy Awards didn’t include cable shows; it took another decade before cable shows were eligible for the TV industry’s most prestigious honors.
Flash forward to 2012, and it’s two ad-supported cable shows that lead this year’s list of Emmy nominees: AMC’s Mad Men and FX’s American Horror Story garnered 17 nods each (followed closely by 16 nominations for History’s Hatfields & McCoys). And consider this: when you add in programs from premium cable networks, only one show on broadcast TV was nominated in the drama series category (Downton Abbey, on PBS). The rest: Boardwalk Empire (HBO), Breaking Bad (AMC), Game of Thrones (HBO), Homeland (Showtime), and Mad Men (AMC).
That pattern repeats in the race for lead actor in a drama, with Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad and Jon Hamm of Mad Men joined by Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Damian Lewis (Homeland) and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey).
Mad Men also picked up a nomination for outstanding lead actress in a drama for Elisabeth Moss, and for outstanding supporting actress, for Christina Hendricks. AMC has three best supporting actor in a drama nominees: Aaron Paul and Giancarlo Esposito for Breaking Bad and Jared Harris for Mad Men. For best supporting actress in a drama, it’s more good news for AMC, with Anna Gunn of Breaking Bad and Christina Hendricks of Mad Men earning nominations.
For outstanding movie or miniseries, History’s record-setting Hatfields & McCoys and FX’s American Horror Story are both nominated. In a move that should help diminish the feuding between the Hatfield and McCoy families, both Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton (who played the heads of the respective families) picked up lead acting nominations. On the lead actress side, American Horror Story’s Connie Britton was recognized, alongside supporting actress nods for Frances Conroy and Jessica Lange. Also in that category is Mare Winningham for Hatfields & McCoys. Completing the movie and miniseries category, American Horror Story’s Dennis O’Hare and Hatfields & McCoys’ Tom Berringer are nominated in the supporting actor category.
Comedy Central has two series nominated for outstanding variety series: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. Two cable favorites are also up for outstanding reality-competition program: Bravo’s Top Chef and Lifetime’s Project Runway.
It seems that more and more each year, the Emmy nominations reflect what ratings show: for top-quality, engaging original programming, cable networks deliver what viewers want—and that’s good news for the marketers whose brands are linked to these popular shows.
As the saying goes, stay tuned—this year’s Emmy winners will be revealed September 23.