Online goes primetime as TV stars gather for Emmys

LOS ANGELES - America's television stars hit the red carpet Sunday for the Emmy awards show, with online drama "House of Cards" hoping to come up trumps against more traditional small-screen rivals.

The Netflix political drama starring Kevin Spacey aims to become the first online-only series to win in major categories at the 65th annual Primetime Emmy awards show, the TV world's equivalent of the Oscars.

But it faces stiff competition from critically-acclaimed AMC thriller "Breaking Bad," which many are tipping to win the evening's top prize on its fifth nomination.

Terror-themed thriller "Homeland" and multiple-Emmy winning "Mad Men" are also in the running for best drama, while "American Horror Story: Asylum" has the most nominations of all, with 17 nods at the awards gala in Los Angeles.

Elton John will make his first ever appearance at the show in a tribute to piano legend Liberace, the subject of acclaimed biopic "Behind the Candelabra," which has 15 nominations overall.

Among the frontrunners, Spacey - scheming congressman Francis Underwood in "House of Cards" - is vying for best actor against Bryan Cranston, as shy chemistry teacher turned crystal meth drug lord Walter White in "Breaking Bad," the finale of which airs next week.

Others tipped in the male drama race include Briton Damian Lewis in "Homeland" and Jon Hamm of "Mad Men," who surprisingly has never won a Primetime Emmy himself.

For best drama actress, the frontrunners include Kerry Washington of ABC's political thriller "Scandal," who would become the first African-American actress to take the top female Emmy.

She is notably up against Claire Danes as bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison in "Homeland," as well as "House of Cards" co-star Robin Wright, who plays Spacey's character's wife Claire.

The series' success highlights the radical changes underway in the TV industry, with more and more viewers "cutting the cable" and watching favourite shows via the Internet on cellphones, tablets and so-called "smart TVs."

"House of Cards," inspired by a BBC series from the early 1990s, was made exclusively for Netflix, the online movie streaming website, which put all 13 episodes online in February in one fell swoop.

Other nominees for best drama include "Downton Abbey" and "Game of Thrones" - marking the first time no series from a mainstream US television network has been nominated in the category.

Up for best comedy are "Modern Family," "The Big Bang Theory," "Girls," "Louie," "Veep" and "30 Rock," which after seven seasons aired its final episode on NBC in January.

Nominated for best TV movie or miniseries are "American Horror Story: Asylum," "Behind the Candelabra," another HBO music biopic "Phil Spector," "Political Animals," "Top of the Lake" and the History Channel's "The Bible."

Sunday night's show, which starts at 5:00 pm (0000 GMT Monday) at LA's Nokia Theatre, will be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, while presenters handing out gongs include "Candelabra" co-stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

"Sopranos" star James Gandolfini, who died in June aged 51, and late "Glee" actor Cory Monteith will be remembered among others who passed away this year, in the three-hour show's "In Memoriam" segment.