Emmy history: Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. Photo: AP
The Netflix political drama House of Cards made television history on Thursday when it became the first online-only series ever to be nominated for a major Emmy award.
The FX miniseries American Horror Story: Asylum meanwhile collected 17 nods, the most of any TV show, ahead of the 65th annual primetime Emmy awards ceremony in Los Angeles on September 22.
But House of Cards, starring Oscar winner Kevin Spacey as a shrewd US congressman, broke fresh Emmy ground, scoring nine nominations including best drama and, for Spacey, best actor in a drama.
American Horror Story: Asylum: 17 nominations. Photo: AP
Inspired by a BBC series from the early 1990s, House of Cards was made exclusively for Netflix, the online movie streaming website, which put all 13 episodes online in February in one fell swoop.
"We may have been the first original series that was premiered that way, but we're certainly not the first series that's been consumed that way," Spacey told the New York Times after Thursday's unveiling of nominations.
"If you've been talking to anybody over the last year or more - 'What did you do over the weekend?' 'I stayed home and watched two seasons of Breaking Bad, I watched four seasons of Mad Men.'
TV hit: Breaking bad. Photo: AP
"That just seems to be the way people are watching and enjoying lengthy, complicated plot lines and characterisations."
Other nominees for best drama included Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland and Mad Men - marking the first time no series from a mainstream US television network has been nominated in the category.
Up for best comedy were Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, Girls, Louie, Veep, and 30 Rock, which after seven seasons aired its final episode on NBC in January.
Nominations in the major categories - out of a grand total of 101 - were announced in Los Angeles in a snappy 17-minute pre-dawn webcast by Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul and Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris.
There were some notable snubs, including Julianna Margulies, who failed to pick up a nod for her turn in The Good Wife.
Jon Cryer, who won best comedy lead actor last year for his role in Two and a Half Men, is out of the Emmys race this year, as is Steve Buscemi for Boardwalk Empire.
This year's Emmys come at a time of radical change in the TV industry, with more and more viewers "cutting the cable" and watching their favourite shows via the internet on mobile phones, tablets and so-called "smart TVs".
Original programming made exclusively for YouTube and other video streaming websites - sometimes with high production values, but at much lower cost - is also reshaping the business and finding an ever-growing audience.
Nominated for best TV movie or miniseries were American Horror Story: Asylum, the HBO musical biopics Behind the Candelabra and Phil Spector, Political Animals, Top of the Lake and the History Channel's The Bible.
Up for best reality series were Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, The Amazing Race, Top Chef and The Voice - the only musical talent show to get a nod in a genre once dominated by American Idol.
Only three African Americans got nods in major categories: Kerry Washington for best drama actress in Scandal, Don Cheadle for best comedy actor in House of Lies and Alfre Woodard for best supporting actress in a miniseries or TV movie in Steel Magnolias.
The irrepressible Betty White, 91, a six-time Emmy winner, was nominated for best reality-show host - just a week after NBC pulled the plug on Betty White's Off Their Rockers, a candid-camera gag show, due to lackluster ratings.
Colombian actress Sofia Vergara got her fourth Emmy nod for her starring role as Gloria in Modern Family.
"I better not finish this cheesecake then," the 41-year-old - currently holidaying on the Greek island of Mykonos - quipped when told of her Emmy nod, according to a spokeswoman.