Sunday night, Hollywood gathered to celebrate the past year in television at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. Noticeably absent from this year’s nominations, due to ineligibility, was HBO’s juggernaut and 2016 Best Drama, Game of Thrones. With the frontrunner from the past 2 years out, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale was able to bring home Best Drama, along with 4 other Drama Series awards on Emmy-night including Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Outstanding Directing, and Outstanding Writing. HBO’s Big Little Lies tied The Handmaid’s Tale with 5 total awards for the night. The biggest winner, however, was Saturday Night Live, which earned 9 awards on the heels of one of its best-rated seasons in decades.
Unexpected and history-making moments made for the most talked about and shared portions of the Emmys. The biggest moment on Twitter and Facebook was when Donald Glover won his first award of the night for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, becoming the first black person to ever win that award. In terms of TV rebroadcasts, the biggest moment was ex-Press Secretary, and inspiration for Melissa McCarthy’s Emmy-winning SNL performance, Sean Spicer’s, appearance during Stephen Colbert’s opening monologue.
Following Dave Chapelle’s thanks to the Washington D.C. public school system for his ability to read a teleprompter, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver asked the Emmys audience to get #DCPublicSchools trending “just because” during his acceptance speech for Best Variety Talk Series. The hashtag, which had zero mentions the previous day, amassed over 43,000 engagements in the next 24 hours.
Sean Spicer’s surprise appearance generated over 36,000 social media engagements over the course of the broadcast, as the internet devolved into a debate over the humor of his inclusion in the event. Host Stephen Colbert garnered more than 43,000 engagements over the course of the show, with the largest spike happening during Spicer’s appearance. However, President Trump beat both men in terms of total engagement, with over 174,000 engagements over the course of 3 hours. The President was referenced frequently throughout the night, but most Trump’s social engagements occurred during Colbert’s opening monologue and Elisabeth Moss’s Best Actress acceptance speech for her role in The Handmaid’s Tale.
On top of taking home the most awards, SNL also had the distinction of being the most socially engaged show during the Emmys broadcast. With over 10 million social media engagements in the first half of 2017, the series is proving that people are still watching TV – and having conversations about it on social media. At the end of season 42, the top brand for the sketch-comedy series was Mattel, according to the 4C Insights Affinity Graph™, showing a strong affiliation with toy buyers. Being a show that drives social conversation, Mattel has the opportunity to capture its audience by buying SNL TV spots during season 43 and syncing its social ads during the program.
With their partial or complete lack of in-program advertising, The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies (should it get its rumored second season), also present opportunities for brands to capitalize on the social media conversation around the popular shows. Of the networks represented by each of the top winners, HBO was the most engaged during the Emmys with over 17,000 engagements. The network clearly draws an enormous social media audience, including over 1 million engagements for this year’s Game of Thrones premiere, so brands shouldn’t let HBO’s advertising structure stop them from capitalizing on the huge crowds. By taking over the second-screens either during the broadcasts or when people are likely to be watching, brands can become a part of the conversation around these widely popular and social TV shows.
While conversation in the media industry continues to paint a gloomy picture of the death of TV at the hands of streaming services, this year’s Emmys showed just how irrelevant that fear is. This year’s biggest winners represent a traditional broadcast network, an ad-free premium cable network, and a streaming service, showing that content captures audience attention regardless of its native platform. As audiences embrace this content-first trend, the industry must embrace a definition of television where content trumps delivery method.
As the fall TV season kicks off, we’ll continue to monitor the social media conversation around new and returning shows. Stay tuned for more on TV, as well as sports, politics, and other pop-culture events, and subscribe to our newsletter to get updates in your inbox.