Cable Execs Find Reasons to Smile; HBO Remains No. 1

Jul 18, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Both pay and basic cable executives kept their chins up late last week after seeing the broadcast networks regain dominance over the Primetime Emmy nominations.

Even with “The Sopranos,” “Angels in America” and “Sex and the City” out of its lineup, HBO remained the most nominated network. But HBO’s total dropped from a record 142 to 93, which was a big factor in cable losing its advantage over the broadcast networks.

HBO CEO Chris Albrecht was quick to dismiss any notion that HBO has cooled off. “We feel very good about the programs we have now and very good about our future,” he said last Thursday after nominations were announced. “I can’t imagine that anybody that actually is intelligent looks at the situation and says anything other than, ‘Wow, look, these guys are still doing great.'”

Basic cable networks claimed 78 nominations, the same as last year, but cable network executives said their channels scored recognition in some important categories, indicating that their programming can compete on even terms with shows on the broadcast networks.

And a record 22 cable networks earned nominations, with BBC America, ESPN, MTV, Sci Fi and VH1 among those getting nods this year after being shut out in 2004.

Mr. Albrecht said last year’s nominations represented “a perfect storm of things happening [at HBO]. We knew we were never going to repeat that performance, nominations-wise. And we also knew we were never going to win 32 awards, more than all the broadcast networks combined. That’s not a reasonable goal,” he said.

HBO earned two outstanding drama nominations, for “Deadwood” and “Six Feet Under.” Its movies “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” and “Warm Springs” earned more nominations than any other program, with 16 apiece.

HBO also got a nomination for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for Ian McShane in “Deadwood.” Jeremy Piven was nominated as outstanding supporting actor in a comedy, and “Da Ali G Show” and “Real Time with Bill Maher” were nominated in the variety, music or comedy series category.

In addition to HBO’s “Empire Falls,” USA Network’s “The 4400” was nominated for outstanding miniseries.

“We got a couple of big nods here,” said Bonnie Hammer, president of USA and Sci Fi Channel. The two channels Ms. Hammer oversees received 13 nominations between them, including Tony Shalhoub for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series for his role in USA’s “Monk.”

While basic cable’s nomination total didn’t rise, Ms. Hammer said that didn’t indicate a leveling off of quality on cable.

“It’s all kind of cyclical,” she said. “It’s not so much the number of nods, it’s the quality-what categories we’re finally breaking through in. We believe that in terms of the quality of production, writing, directing, ideas, that we’re really toe to toe with the broadcast networks.”

While none of FX’s acclaimed dramas were nominated in the outstanding drama category, each of them received other nominations. “The Shield’s” Glenn Close and CCH Pounder were nominated for outstanding lead actress and supporting actress, respectively. “Rescue Me” was nominated for writing and directing, and “Nip/Tuck” received four nominations, giving the network seven, its highest total ever.

Cable networks had all five of the nominated made-for-television movies. In addition to HBO’s “Lackawanna Blues,” “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” and “Warm Springs,” TNT’s “The Wool Cap” and BBC America’s “The Office Special” earned nominations.

Showtime’s “Huff” drew nominations for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for Hank Azaria, outstanding supporting actor for Oliver Platt, and outstanding supporting actress for Blythe Danner. Showtime had 17 nominations overall, down from 18 last year.