How Netflix’s ‘Arrested Development,’ ‘House of Cards’ Are Crashing the Emmys

With the internet, mobile apps and Netflix joining the ranks of Primetime Emmy contenders, it can be hard to keep track of exactly what's eligible  

Primetime television shows are eligible for the Primetime Emmy Awards, of course. So are programs that don’t air during primetime, and commercials, and webisodes and apps, and Netflix’s "House of Cards" and "Arrested Development" which are not by most standard definitions a television series.

Just as the face of television has morphed over the past decade, so has the face of the Emmy Awards. “Back in 1977, when the Academy was formed, we began with network broadcast, syndication and PBS,” John Leverence, the senior vice president of awards at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, told TheWrap. “But that has changed significantly.”

The new landscape is reflected in the TV Academy’s mission statement: “The mission of the Academy is to promote creativity, diversity, innovation and excellence through recognition, education and leadership in the advancement of the telecommunications arts and sciences.”

Also read: "Arrested Development" New Season Trailer Released

“It’s no longer the television arts and sciences, but the telecommunications arts and sciences,” said Leverence. “We now have stuff above and beyond where we began.”

With the caveat that definitions are fluid, the landscape is changing and the field is so vast that we can’t cover every possibility, here are the types of programming eligible for Emmys:

Programs that originally aired on broadcast television between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. during the eligibility period, which this year is June 1, 2012, through May 31, 2013.

Netflix's "Arrested Development" just made it under the wire, debuting on the streaming service this coming Sunday.

Shows on basic cable or premium cable during the same period.

Shows available via interactive cable. This is where the potentially game-changing "Development" and "House of Cards" come in.

Programs that receive a limited theatrical release before their television debuts. Shows are supposed to have “originally aired on television,” but there’s some wiggle room for things like HBO documentaries that quietly pay for Oscar-qualifying theatrical runs before their television debuts. Seven-day, two-city awards-qualifying runs are allowed, as are seven-day, 10-city runs to satisfy a distributor or financier.

International productions, if they are the result of a co-production between U.S. and foreign partners and have a commitment to air on U.S. television.

Short-form animated and live-action programs that originally aired on television or on the internet. The categories are typically dominated by short-form work from Comedy Central, the Disney Channel and the like on the animated side, and webisodes on the live-action side, but Leverence said that YouTube and Funny or Die videos also qualify.

Interactive media productions of all kinds–webisodes, apps, etc.–that are tied to a television program or series, and original interactive productions. The interactive Emmys expanded from one to two awards this year, and the official rules detail four specific areas in which the jury can single out programming in the Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media category.

Commercials between 30 seconds and two minutes in length that originally aired during primetime to more than 50 percent of U.S. households or the potential television audience.

Shows that air during the daytime or don’t air at any specific time, because they’re internet- or on-demand-based, if they have the characteristics of a primetime program. “When we switched over to internet eligibility, we lost our temporal distinction between Primetime and Daytime Emmys,” Leverence said.

“For atemporal mediums like Netflix and the internet, we drop back into our generic identifying mode.” In other words, if it has the characteristics of a primetime program–a police procedural, a drama series, a comedy of the short that typically airs in the evening — it qualifies.

“Usually, awards are very reactive,” said Leverence of the rules that anticipated shows like "House of Cards" and "Arrested Development." “But now, it looks like for once in our life, we were a little bit ahead of the curve.”