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Report: Netflix, Hulu spent 7.5x more than HBO per Emmy

July 30, 2019

While Netflix caught the attention of the TV world last year when it ended HBO’s 18-year stretch of earning the most Emmy nominations, this year, HBO reclaimed the spot with 137 nominations to Netflix’s 117. But how much did each spend to earn such success?

Kill the Cable Bill, providers of industry trend analysis, crunched the numbers for Netflix and HBO, as well as rival streaming services Hulu and Amazon, and found that both Netflix and Hulu spent over 7.5 times more than HBO per Emmy nomination.

Who Spent the Most Per Emmy Nomination?

In 2018, Netflix spent about $14 billion (€12.5bn) on content, according to the company’s annual report. Some of that goes toward licensing content and some goes toward original content that can’t get nominated, and of course, some of the 2019 Emmy-eligible content had its production costs paid for prior to 2018. In other words, this isn’t a foolproof scientific analysis, but it’s a fun exercise at getting a decent estimate at how efficiently the various streaming services and TV networks are creating quality content.

As it turns out, the major streaming services aren’t very efficient at all when it comes to creating great content.

Netflix spent a little over $120 million per Emmy nomination, up 41 per cent from last year’s $85 million for each nod. That’s 7.5x more than HBO spent per nomination.

But they weren’t even the worst offender. Hulu, who received 20 nominations and had a 2018 budget of $2.5 billion, spent $125 million for each of its nominations.

Rounding out the major streaming services, Amazon’s 47 Emmy nominations cost the company $106 million a piece.

HBO spent roughly $2.2 billion on content last year, and their 137 nominations cost the network just under $16 million each, a bargain compared to the spending of the major on-demand streaming services.

Is It Time to Tighten the Purse Strings?

The past few years have been the era of big spending in the TV industry, and it has been led in large part by Netflix and their streaming counterparts. Netflix and its peers have been operating with an open checkbook in recent years, spending billions upon billions of dollars on content, the bulk of which has gone toward financing original TV series and movies (Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series is said to be the most expensive show ever made). It was a move born of necessity as the streaming services have struggled to maintain rights to (also expensive) licensed content.

But the results of spending so much on original content have been decidedly mixed. Netflix is burning billions in cash, and they’ve just come off a massively disappointing quarter where they missed new subscriber expectations by nearly 50%. The company has had to raise prices to help finance its ever-growing content budget, and a significant number of subscribers are starting to feel the service is too expensive.

In other words, this kind of spending hasn’t been very cost-effective by multiple metrics, and with recent reports that Netflix may be slowing down spending on its original content, it seems maybe the execs at the company are starting to agree. With Disney+ on the horizon, smart spending is more important than ever.

Categories: Articles, Content, Production, Research