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Netflix challenges the TV establishment with Emmy wins for 'House of Cards'

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house of cards
house of cards

Netflix made history tonight, winning three Emmy awards for House of Cards, becoming the first company to win the awards for online-only shows. Original shows produced by Netflix had received 14 nominations — 9 of those for House of Cards alone. David Fincher won for best directing in a drama series for House of Cards, "Chapter 1." House of Cards also won two "creative arts" Emmys for outstanding casting and outstanding cinematography. Netflix's series had been nominated for other big awards, including best drama, but those awards went to established TV networks.

The Emmy nods, coming nearly 15 years after The Sopranos became the first cable series to earn an Emmy nomination for best television drama, signal an important validation of the internet streaming model and the company's aggressive push into original programming. Netflix has promised to create a minimum of five original programs a year, with plans to double that number in 2014, and has budgeted $300 million for shows like House of Cards, Hemlock Grove, and Orange Is The New Black. Not shy about its ambitions, Netflix has said that "the goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us."

"Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in."

In August, House of Cards star Kevin Spacey backed up Netflix's novel distribution model, which allows viewers to "binge" on entire seasons of content at once. "We have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn't learn," Spacey said. "Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price — and they'll more likely pay for it rather than steal it."

"It's all content," Spacey said. "It's just story."

Of course, while Netflix has compared itself to HBO, and backed up its vision with tonight's wins, there's still a lot we don't know about the company's overall success. Netflix has kept its hard viewership numbers close to its chest, and unlike HBO, isn't required to disclose when one of its shows is a failure. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and chief of content Ted Sarandos said in July that a show is a hit if Netflix decides to renew it, and that the company renews shows if it decides that the money wouldn't be better spent on a different project.

Variety has a complete list of the nominees and winners.