8-bit person holding Emmy award

Illustration by Bruno Moraes

Streaming TV finally broke through at the 2017 Emmys

'The Handmaid's Tale' made history for Hulu. Now what?


Audra Schroeder


Posted on Sep 18, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 5:06 pm CDT

At this year’s Emmys, there were trolls and jokes about Trump, but streaming TV was the real star.

It was predicted that Hulu‘s breakout hit The Handmaid’s Tale would take home some awards, and it did: outstanding writing for a drama series; outstanding drama series; outstanding supporting actress in a drama series (Ann Dowd); outstanding directing for a drama series (Reed Morano, marking the first time a woman has won in the category in 22 years); and outstanding lead actress in a drama series (Elisabeth Moss). Earlier this week, Alexis Bledel won for outstanding guest actress in a drama series, for her role as Ofglen.

It’s the first time a streaming platform has won in a best series category, and a pivotal win for Hulu, which has seen success with comedies (Casual, Difficult People) but until The Handmaid’s Tale didn’t have a solid drama series on par with Netflix‘s House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black.

Now the platform just has to prove it can hold that audience.


On Netflix, John Lithgow won outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for The Crown, and Black Mirror picked up awards for outstanding writing for a limited series, movie or drama; and outstanding television movie for season 3’s critically acclaimed “San Junipero.” Many pointed out the importance of the win—and the episode—for LGBTQ fans.


One of the most powerful statements of the night came from Master of None‘s Lena Waithe, who, along with series creator Aziz Ansari, won for outstanding writing for a comedy series. Waithe plays Denise on the series, and wrote the season 2 episode “Thanksgiving,” which follows Denise through a series of Thanksgivings as she comes out to her mother. The Emmy makes her the first black woman to win for comedy writing.

Waithe addressed her “LGBQTIA family”: “I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape, and go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.”


Netflix immediately seized its wins by showcasing its big comedy bats—Seinfeld, Chappelle, Rock, and DeGeneres—in a post-Emmy promo. It’s already won the day in comedy, and now it’s flaunting its hardware:

The number of streaming wins this year is indicative not just of a changing landscape, but the national mood: A show about the oppression of women in a dystopian society debuted at precisely the right time. The question isn’t whether streaming TV can break through during awards season, now it’s a matter of how these historic wins shape future programming.

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*First Published: Sep 18, 2017, 11:43 am CDT