The Emmy Awards competition experienced a 15 percent increase in submissions for this year.

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - HBO’s sci-fi western "Westworld" and NBC’s comedy sketch show "Saturday Night Live" led the field for television’s prestigious Primetime Emmy awards Thursday, with 22 nominations.

"Stranger Things," Netflix’s award-winning sci-fi-horror drama set in the 1980s, and FX’s "Feud: Bette and Joan," about the famous rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, scored the next highest tallies with 18 nods.

HBO’s political comedy "Veep," starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as hapless former president Selina Meyer -- scored 17 nominations for television’s equivalent of the Oscars, to be handed out on September 17 in Los Angeles.

"Veep" actress Anna Chlumsky -- who earned a fifth consecutive nomination for supporting actress in a comedy series -- and "Criminal Minds" star Shemar Moore presented the nominations from the Television Academy in Los Angeles.

Leading the nominations in totals by platform were premium cable network HBO (110), streaming powerhouse Netflix (91) and traditional network NBC (60).

"It’s been a record-breaking year for television, continuing its explosive growth," said Television Academy Chairman and CEO Hayma Washington.

"The Emmy Awards competition experienced a 15 percent increase in submissions for this year’s initial nomination round of online voting. The creativity and excellence in presenting great storytelling and characters across a multitude of ever-expanding entertainment platforms is staggering."


Star-studded 


Industry watchers had predicted a wide open race, with awards juggernaut "Game of Thrones" out of the running -- and that prediction was borne out.

HBO’s fantasy epic about noble families vying for control of the Iron Throne raked in a record-breaking 12 awards last year, but was ineligible this time around since the new season doesn’t start until Sunday.

The outstanding drama category included five first-timers -- "Westworld," Hulu’s dystopian sci-fi series "The Handmaid’s Tale," NBC’s family drama "This Is Us," and two Netflix shows -- "The Crown" and "Stranger Things."

"The Crown" -- a Golden Globe winning series about Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II -- is generally thought to be the favorite for the Emmy, but will face stiff competition from returnees "Better Call Saul" (AMC) and "House of Cards" (Netflix).

Some hotly-tipped shows missed out on widely-expected nods, however, including "The Americans," "Homeland" and "Mr. Robot," which were shut out of the best drama category.

The Television Academy’s 21,000 members were given two weeks in June to sift through a crowded field of some 8,000 entries from shows aired during the previous 12 months across 113 categories.

The most star-studded category was best actor in a limited series or TV movie with the nominations led by Robert De Niro, who anchored HBO’s "The Wizard of Lies" as Ponzi scheme fraudster Bernie Madoff.

Riz Ahmed, Ewan McGregor, Geoffrey Rush and John Turturro were also nominated, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch.


New record 


"House of Cards" star Kevin Spacey, a double Oscar winner who has never won an Emmy, picked up a nomination in the best drama actor category -- his 11th nod overall.

He faces competition for the elusive statuette from Sterling K Brown ("This Is Us"), Bob Odenkirk ("Better Call Saul"), Liev Schreiber ("Ray Donovan"), Matthew Rhys ("The Americans"), Anthony Hopkins ("Westworld") and first-time nominee Milo Ventimiglia ("This is Us").

In the best actress in a comedy category, Julia Louis-Dreyfus will be hotly-tipped for a sixth consecutive Emmy for her role as hapless former vice president-turned-president Selina Meyer on HBO’s "Veep" after picking up another nomination.

Melissa McCarthy, who made headlines with her appearances as embattled White House press secretary Sean Spicer on sketch show "Saturday Night Live," got the nod for best comedy guest actress.

McCarthy, who has one Emmy win in seven previous nominations, faces competition in the category from fellow SNL alum Kristen Wiig.

It was a big day for SNL, which broke its own record to set a new high of 231 total nominations since voting began.

Multiple nominee Alec Baldwin was nominated for his impersonation of President Donald Trump on the show and Kate McKinnon recognized for her popular turn as Trump’s election rival Hillary Clinton.

"Game of Thrones" made television history last year, becoming the most decorated fictional show since the awards began nearly seven decades ago with nine awards in technical categories and three top prizes.

Second round voting for this year’s prizes will take place in August while the ceremony itself will be beamed live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, with late night funnyman Stephen Colbert hosting.