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Netflix joins the Emmy club

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By Todd Leopold

(CNN) — Remember Netflix, that little video rental outfit that sent you DVDs via the U.S. mail? The one whose red envelopes would arrive with dulling regularity and sit near your television for months on end as you attempted to catch up on your DVR recordings?

It’s playing with the big boys now.

Netflix is, of course, no longer just a DVD rental service. It also streams movies and TV series — including its own.

On Thursday morning, Netflix received the ultimate recognition. One of the company’s original series, “House of Cards,” was nominated for best drama for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. Another, “Arrested Development,” received a nod for actor Jason Bateman.

“House of Cards” is going up against veterans such as “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones” and “Homeland” for Emmy’s most prestigious award.

The broadcast networks may want to take notes. Not a single show on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox or the CW was nominated for best drama, though network sitcoms such as “The Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family” and the now-defunct “30 Rock” were nominated for best comedy along with HBO’s “Girls” and “Veep” and FX’s “Louie.”

It’s a trend that’s been developing for years, as the broadcast networks have opted for franchising (“NCIS,” “CSI,” “Law & Order”) and reboots (“Hawaii Five-O”) over the complex, often serialized dramas that the cable networks have used to get publicity and establish a foothold in the medium. Nevertheless, it’s surprising that such hits as “Scandal,” “The Good Wife,” “Once Upon a Time” and “Person of Interest” failed to earn enough support to nudge their way into the category.

Original programming was a major gamble for Netflix, which had noticed how people had started “binge-watching” shows such as “Breaking Bad” — watching entire seasons of popular series in one or two gulps. The service invested $100 million in “House of Cards,” based on a British series from the 1990s.

The bet paid off with increased subscriptions and a huge amount of media coverage — coverage that was multiplied when Netflix decided to put “Arrested Development” back into production. Despite its cult following and major critical success, “Development” had been canceled after just three seasons on Fox in the early 2000s. (Creator Mitch Hurwitz had famously begged TV audiences to watch his show after it won a best comedy Emmy in 2004.)

Aside from Netflix and the snub of the broadcast networks in best drama, the nominations generally went to the tried and true. “American Horror Story: Asylum,” the follow-up to the well-received “American Horror Story,” led all programming with 17 nominations, followed by HBO’s “Game of Thrones” with 16 and “Saturday Night Live” with 15. (The HBO movie “Behind the Candelabra” also got 15 nominations.) Perennial Emmy leaders “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” also did well, nabbing 13 and 12 nominations, respectively.

“The Amazing Race” was nominated for best reality competition show for the 11th consecutive year. The show has won the category every year except 2010, when “Top Chef” — also up in the category — won.

“Behind the Candelabra” earned nominations for best TV movie or miniseries. Both lead actors, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, earned nominations for their performances as Liberace and Liberace’s partner, Scott Thorsen.

HBO’s “Phil Spector” did well, with nominations for stars Al Pacino, Helen Mirren and the film itself.

The Emmys will be broadcast Sunday, September 22. The show will air on CBS.

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