If There Was an Emmy for Best Network, Who Would Win?

We've reached that time of the year where it's time to look back at last twelve months in TV and fight over who deserves to be recognized for what transpired during that period. Just last week, both the TCA Awards and the Critcs' Choice Awards announced their 2014 nominees, and with Emmy voters' nomination ballots due later this month, the For Your Consideration campaigns are in full swing. But that got me thinking: There are accolades for shows, performers, producers, directors, etc., but what about an award for the Network/Channel/Streaming Platform that had the best year? 

And thus, this story was born. You guys, it's time to look backward a bit and crown winners for the Content Provider of the Year award (working title; if you have ideas for that too, let me know) for the last decade. I'm just spitballing here, but here are some initial criteria to consider: 


1. Producing great shows

Duh, right? You can win this prestigious award without multiple high-quality shows. And before you say it, of course "high-quality" and "good" are subjective. All awards are subjective. Everything is subjective. 


2. Working with and/or hiring good people 

Oh, you brought a notable film actor to television for an eight-episode miniseries? You let a young female writer shepherd a project with her intended voice intact? Good on ya. Did you rehire Tim Kring to reboot Heroes? You're banned from winning this award for a decade.


3. Taking risks

The television industry has a tendency to shy away from new things—until they work. Who's at the forefront of industry trends and widespread change? 


4. Achieving consistency and depth

It's cool to be there on the TV streets taking big swings, but you need to make contact more often than not. And there has to be more than one good project on your schedule (or in your archive). That's what will prevent us from only valorizing cable channels that can take more risks with different business models. Broadcast's ability to churn out a lot of pretty solid stuff matters too.


5. Earning good (or at least palpable) buzz

Are people talking about your shows, your performers, your brand campaigns, or your social media activity? If we're not writing thinkpieces about you throughout the calendar year, how do you truly deserve a place at the awards table?


6. A content provider can't win two years in row 

If there's one thing that's supremely boring about the Emmys, it's the repetition. It'd be pretty easy to just say "HBO" every time, but that's no fun, right?


I probably could've come up with another half-dozen criteria, and if you have ideas, I'd love to hear them in the comments. But with at least these six in mind, let's retroactively decide who deserves the TV Content Provider of the Year for the last decade. Here are my picks:



2013: Netflix

HUGE year for them. Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards, the resurrection of Arrested Development, the buzz about binge-viewing's impact on shows like Breaking Bad. THIS is the first big award that suggests Netflix might one day be our TV overlord.



2012: AMC 

The Walking Dead's ratings soared into another stratosphere, Mad Men returned from its extended hiatus with a tremendous fifth season, Breaking Bad hysteria really started to kick in, and the network didn't have a reality show about arm wrestling on its schedule. I also strongly considered HBO and Showtime here. 



2011: FX

The best seasons of Justified and Louie to date (both shows aired successful sophomore efforts), the debut of the batty American Horror Story, the last season of Sons of Anarchy that wasn't offensively frustrating, the end of Rescue Me, the underrated single season of Lights Out, the beginning of Wilfred, and good stuff from Archer and The League



2010: NBC

I'm admittedly ignoring some of the criteria here—most notably the unwritten rule that says any network with The Marriage Ref on its schedule doesn't deserve any admiration—for that amazing time where CommunityParks and RecreationThe Office, and 30 Rock were all in the lineup at the same time, and all doing pretty tremendous things. And hey, Parenthood began in 2010 while Heroes ended, and what a lovely trade it was.



2009: CBS

Just like with HBO, we could easily honor CBS with this award in several different years. But in 2009, The Big Bang Theory really started to take off with viewers (it was a sizable hit before, but this is where it started to become a massive success), How I Met Your Mother wasn't a full-blown abomination yet, and both The Good Wife and NCIS: LA joined the schedule. 



2008: Hulu

Hulu went live in March of 2008, and you could make a strong case that its debut is one of the most important developments in recent TV memory. While Hulu didn't have much original content back then, its creation signaled that the networks and studios were clearly aware of changing viewing practices and willing to come together to attract as many viewers as possible. Plus, aggregating all the good stuff from ABC, Fox, and NBC certainly gave Hulu a lot of high-quality content. 


2007: No Award Given

The Writers Guild of America strike at the end of 2007 would've really put a damper on the star-studded Content Provider of the Year telecasted (hosted by Masi Oka, as Heroes fever was in full swing when he signed on). But HBO probably would have won: The discussion about the final season and episode of The Sopranos might've been enough to carry the pay cabler to the title, but 2007 also brought good final seasons of Extras and Rome and the debuts of Flight of the Conchords and everyone's favorite metaphysical surfer drama, John from Cincinnati



2006: Fox

Soul Patrol! Okay, so in retrospect, the Taylor Hicks-Katharine McPhee-Chris Daughtry season of American Idol doesn't look as great, but in 2006, people still really cared about the show, and perhaps more importantly, Simon Cowell still cared. This was the last year that the final performance episode scored over 30 million viewers. Fox also aired Season 5 of 24 in 2006, which might not've been the show's absolute best, but was both A) its most popular and B) the one with the best balance of INSANITY and sanity. Throw in House, the then relatively recent return of Family Guy, the glorious final season of The O.C., and the most important show of our generation, Reunion, and Fox had quite the year. 



2005: ABC

You might've expected ABC to take the crown in 2004 since so much has been made about the big debuts of both Lost and Desperate Housewives that fall; those two shows legitimately pulled the network out of its doldrums. However, the third juggernaut to come from that immortal pilot season, Grey's Anatomy, didn't debut until March 2005, and it didn't become a phenomenon until a little later in the year. 



2004: HBO

Probably one of HBO's best years, period. Sex and the City concluded a very successful run, Entourage and Deadwood debuted, and The SopranosThe Wire, Six Feet Under, and Curb Your Enthusiasm were all in the midst of great runs. I mean the beginning of Entourage alone, right?


There's 10 years of winners for you. I could have gone back even further, but I'd rather hear from you folks. Do you agree with my selections? And which content provider is the early frontrunner for 2014?


Comments (41)
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Yeah, Netflix is great for a fledgling network. But they're still fledgling (only a couple of shows exist). FX has way more more quality hits right now. And it's quite a spread too, all over the board.

For a while FX seemed like it would just excel in drama. Then it got distracted by trying to perfect a comedy lineup and succeeding (surprising to me!). Now they've managed to put the focus back on drama and once again they're nailing it again. FX seemingly has it all.
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HBO for me for these three alone:
Veep, Silicon Valley, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver!
Very close second FX for these:
Archer, It's Always Sunny, The League, Justified, Fargo
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I have a question: Why isn't there a poll or some sort of voting option on this article?
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CW is leading the pack for 2014 - Arrow, The Originals, The 100, Supernatural and Reign (even the now cancelled "The tomorrow people" and the fans favorite Vampire diaries) all contributed to making CW the most watched network this year. And with new additions like Flash, things can only be on the up and up. They win by a landslide.
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LOL
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HBO, if only because I've always felt their shows ended when the storylines told them it was time to end things and not when the ratings, buzz or desperation dragged the storyline beyond any recognizable plot point.

I've always felt like I see talented, daring and consistent stroytelling. Their shows do own their story, not the fans, the internet or the media, but the show itself.
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ABC FAMILY
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The CW has 5 shows i cant live without this fall 2014, fox has been sucking, cbs nbc abc is hanging in there. netflix is awesome
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No on HBO. Here is why. True Blood should have been ended a season ago. Boardwalk Empire is strong but not strong enough to be a contender. Game of Thrones is awesome but going in its third year, so not very innovative. More shocking.

I would say Amazon. They are taking chances, have green lighted multiple new shows. The talent is getting better and the stories are really working.

Here is the wild card.... BBC America. Orphan Black, Sherlock, Broadchurch and more to come. I get some of these are British production. I would like to submit because the level of talent, story lines and products are really some of the best out there.

Those are my thoughts.
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Showtime !!
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HBO wins all 2010+ years! Just Games of Thrones alone!
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Interesting how every year it's a new network...
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I say NBC I watch pretty much everything on the network and they have produced my all time favorite shows Parks and Recreation, The Office, and Friday Night Lights.
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FX for me. American Horror Story, The Americans, Archer, Louie. Just a great lineup.
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I would say Fox. During the Fall, Winter and Spring, I watch a lot of really great shows on a variety of networks, but when it comes to cheap, trashy summer TV, Fox seems to be the only network I watch consistently. So while Fox may not have the best shows all year, it can get me to watch by being less crappy during crappy television season.
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There have been an incredible wealth of great shows this season.
Several of which are destined to be future classics.

Is it just me, or has this been an exceptional season?

But they all seem to be comming from different networks. At least I can't see any one provider standing out.
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Pretty much on-target in the last few years. I think it's easy to use rose-tinted glasses for anything beyond 3 years though. But FX, Netflix, and AMC have really dominated the last 3 years.
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I definitely agree. It's a lot easier to judge it when you have the benefit of retrospect.
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Especially when the passage of time can soften the impact of a network's failings.
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Bittorrent wins for me by a very long shot. Every great show I've ever wanted to watch, available pretty much instantly anywhere in the world.
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No broadcast network should win because they're all guilty of short-sighted cancellations of good shows. They lose a lot of points anyway for airing shows like American Idol, X Factor, The Voice, Dancing With The Stars, and The Bachelor, preempting good scripted shows for the above mentioned shows, and putting good shows on ratings-killing hiatuses. My vote for consistency would probably go to USA for churning out shows like Burn Notice, Covert Affairs, Suits, Graceland, & Royal Pains, and those are just the shows I watch. People like(d) Monk, Necessary Roughness, & Psych. For edgy, hard-hitting drama, FX has The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, Justified, American Horror Story, Sons of Anarchy, & The Americans under it's belt.
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2003 was a notable year for SyFy / Sci Fi.
The channel did not have a stupid name, Battlestar Galactica was rebooted, the excellent Steven Speilberg mini-series Taken was aired , StarGate SG1 was still going strong and 2003 was also FarScapes last season.
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In retrospect, 2006 and The Taylor Hicks show seems as good as ever to me. In fact, they could bring it back anytime and I would be happy. Never enjoyed watching anyone more on my tv. He was a breath of fresh air with a voice like no other but he didn't kiss the right butts to become the star he should have become. But hey, hes doing great. A great musician and one of the best live performers out there. He has kept his fans very happy.
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I should also mention, when I first read the headline on the tv.com homepage I thought this was going to be about:

Comcast vs TimeWarner vs Verizon vs DirectTv vs etc.

In other words, like trying to determine which venereal disease you hate the least.
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The Emmys can do whatever they want as long as the give Shameless some love.
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Yeh HBO, AMC and Netflix.

What about Showtime? Dexter, Weeds, Homeland, Californiacation, Dead Like Me, The Tudors.
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And now their first promisingly good supernatural show Penny Dreadful! Showtime is getting up there.
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Well, he mentions that he strongly considered giving either HBO or Showtime the "win" in 2012.

Keep in mind that he is looking at this year-by-year and not cumulative. Many of the hits you listed are either old, or stopped being as critically acclaimed a couple years ago.

Technically he could have / should have included Showtime as a winner... such as around 2011 / 2012 when Homeland was in season 1.

Overall.. Showtime is a contender. They've had great shows in the past, and even their current (or hiatus'ed) shows are great. However they rarely get the acclaim of some of the HBO shows (Sopranos, GoT, etc.).
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BBC America
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The problem is BBC America wasn't very well broadcast here in America. Not all of the cable companies would carry it.

Some companies started carrying it (the non-HD version) for season 5 of Doctor Who, and then most companies finally started carrying it (and the HD-version) when "Doctor Who" for Season 6's premiere of "The Impossible Astronaut"

Prior to that, we had to get our Doctor Who and Torchwood fixes elsewhere. HDNet, SyFy, etc. Or if we wanted the HD version, either iTunes or Torrent.
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If there's one thing that's supremely boring about the Emmys, it's the repetition. It'd be pretty easy to just say "HBO" every time, but that's no fun, right?

Fun...? No, but pretty much accurate. I'd be hard to argue that, in accordance with the no back to back rule, that HBO shouldn't win every other year. True Detective and Game of Thrones...that's a one two punch that's pretty much impossible to beat.
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Couldn't agree more if I tried really really hard to agree more.
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This year? Tough call. Part of me wants to say NBC.
  • Firstly, NBC clawed its way back to the top. That's saying something.
  • Next, The Black List and Hannibal were awesome.
  • Grimm is solid, and I give them some acknowledgement for trying Dracula and Believe.

Sure, we lost Community but I don't know how much of that was NBC or Sony.
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To detail it better
Quality + Buzz = Black List + Hannibal + other more minor successes

Taking Risks
- Dracula was a risk. Sure it was yet-another-Vampire-show, but it was quite different from the mold. Networks tend to shy away from period pieces.
- Believe was a little bit of a risk. Sure it started the same season as Resurrection but it's still different enough than most NETWORK stuff.
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Dracula was a respectable failure. It was trying to do something different even if it didn't manage to succeed. But NBC should never have waited until everyone was tired of Halloween to air it.
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Hulu WAS a cool idea back in the day. I was a big fan and told everyone about it.

When it came out, there weren't as many commercials and they were shorter. It was a neat place to go. Now... there are more commercials AND they are longer. This is EVEN on the pay-version.

To top it off, the licensing structure is too complicated. Show A can play on Desktop + Mobile + XBox, but show B can only play on Desktop + Mobile, and Show A can only play on Desktop. I realize this is probably the work of the studios / networks but it still affects my enjoyment.
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Restricting winners due to previous success is stupid in my opinion. If a network ON MERIT should win 2, or even 22, years in a row, then thats the way it should be, otherwise there would be an asterix next to the winners name... '[NetworkA] wins only because [NetworkB] is disqualified for being too good.
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Agreed . While it is true that having the same winner year after year can be boring, you can't fault anyone for being too good or for having inferior competition.
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2001: The WB Network.
Buffy Season 5: The Body
Angel Season 2: Great finale in Pylea
Dawson's Creek: Joey has sex
Gilmore Girls debuts
Roswell Season 2, Charmed Season 3
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Also Felicity and Popular. The WB was in its heyday and it was amazing.
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TV host of the year might be a good title. and i agree with you that no network/provider get to win two years in a row. In addition, the award jury should mention the reason for selecting the said network for the award.
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