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Awards season: The rise of streaming networks

Streaming services are fast becoming firm favorites with top critics as well as the TV audiences.

Last week, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced its film and TV nominations for the 2016 Golden Globe awards. And one detail was clear… streaming services dominated the television list.

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Netflix led the way, receiving eight Golden Globe nominations in TV for series including "Narcos" and "Orange is the New Black", followed by premium cable networks HBO (seven) and Starz (six), and Amazon Video with five.

Leading broadcasters and basic cable networks like ABC and AMC, who've delivered previous award-winning successes "Modern Family" and "Breaking Bad", however trailed behind, mostly ranging from one to four nominations per network, except FX, which received five.

It's not just the 73rd Golden Globes praising the streaming sites either. In September, both Amazon Video and Netflix won a collection of awards at the Emmys, including the Creative Arts session. In 2015, Amazon picked up two Globes for "Transparent", while Netflix outshone at 2014's Creative Emmys, with seven wins.

Recognition from top award networks highlights two key characteristics from streaming sites, according to experts.

"(First off), Netflix and Amazon are prepared to invest comparable amounts of money to linear TV channels in original programmes, so they are able to compete for the best ideas; and (secondly) producers are happy to pitch them ideas and work with them," Tim Westcott, principal analyst for TV programming at IHS, told CNBC via email.

In December, Netflix announced it was doubling its original programming in 2016, delivering 31 original series on top of more documentaries and films. For 2014 alone, Amazon invested $1.3 billion in Prime Instant Video, while both platforms have drawn in big Hollywood stars to push their content forward.

"I think partly it's reflecting the fact that they're now confident enough to make heavy investments in high-quality titles for their services, which is being brought out in the awards/potential awards they may win," Richard Broughton, research director at Ampere Analysis, told CNBC over the phone.

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One reason why streaming shows might be amassing accolades is down to having a greater freedom to choose their own content.

Similar to premium cable networks, HBO and Starz, online streaming sites have fewer content restrictions than ad-supported networks, whereby broadcasters have to be more careful to not offend advertisers, while editing their shows to accommodate commercial breaks. With this, companies have a greater level of exploration into more mature topics, which are "much more suited to critical acclaim," both analysts explain.

"Big broadcast networks are really all about pulling in the viewers, while Netflix and Amazon are about pulling in subscribers, which may well be driven by very different things," Broughton adds, discussing the difference between critical and popular acclaim.

Westcott believes there's scope for streaming sites to thrive from here onwards when it comes to accumulating awards, as whether hit networks like it or not, "Netflix, Amazon et al are here to stay."

"With the growth of high speed broadband the proliferation of internet-connected devices, more people are watching programming on demand – scripted programmes in particular, because they don't need to be watched live and you can binge view multiple episodes."

However, Broughton argues that these sites could ultimately hit a point where controversial shows won't necessarily be pulling in all new subscribers. In the long term, they may look to diversify away from just hard-hitting and critically acclaimed titles, to perhaps more light dramas which do quite well on broadcast networks.

Could this see a similar trend for films? At 2016's Globes, Netflix earned one film nomination, however, analysts believe the awards are more destined towards original television programming… for now.

Broughton argues that the TV shows get people subscribing for multiple series, while films are more 'one off'; while taking Netflix as an example, Westcott adds that there are fewer movies currently produced on the platform, and TV series is where Netflix is "really making their mark."

By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs, follow her @AlexGibbsy and @CNBCi