AMC, Showtime Leapfrog HBO in Original Series Nominations

HBO is still a powerhouse in total nominations, but its competitors have caught up with original series programming

With a whopping 101 Emmy nods, HBO’s decade of TV awards domination would seem in very good order for 2010 and beyond.

But a closer look shows that when it comes to the coveted original series nominations, its main cable rivals have caught up to – and now passed – the premium channel.

In fact, for the first time ever, AMC and Showtime both got more Emmy nominations for original shows than HBO (story continues below):

HBO still gets bragging rights as the most-nominated network by far – an honor it’s held for a decade running. The next-most nominated network is ABC, with 63. And neither Showtime (24 total) nor AMC (26 total) come close to HBO’s total nominations haul.

But most of HBO's nominations this year came from movies, documentaries and mini-series, not the original shows that were once the network's calling card, like “The Sopranos," "Six Feet Under," "Sex & The City" and "The Wire."

In terms of 2010  original series nods, AMC led all cable networks with 24; Showtime was right behind with 23; and HBO was in third place with 20. That matches a 2008 low point for HBO, which averaged 38 per year from 2000-2009.

And it’s arguable that the trend represents not a decline for HBO, but the rise of its rivals, which are sucking up the finite number of nominations as they bring higher quality shows to cable.

HBO paved their way. "The Sopranos" in 1999 inspired other cable networks to create ambitious, big budget original series of their own. And of course, Showtime and AMC's talent rosters past and present are stocked with former HBO names, from Robert Greenblatt to Matt Weiner; from Edie Falco to Michael C. Hall.