By Piya Sinha-Roy and Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sci-fi drama "Westworld" and satirical sketch show "Saturday Night Live" led Emmy award nominations on Thursday with 22 apiece in a list stuffed with new contenders that reflected a booming era for television.
With reigning Emmy champ "Game of Thrones" ineligible this year for the highest honors in television after it moved its seventh season to this summer, the door opened to five new shows vying for the top prize of best drama series.
The crowded race includes British royal series "The Crown" and supernatural mystery "Stranger Things," both on Netflix; Hulu's breakout dystopian women's series "The Handmaid's Tale" starring best actress nominee Elisabeth Moss; and NBC's emotional family drama "This Is Us."
Peter Morgan, creator of "The Crown," said he was "chuffed, thrilled, proud, honored!" at the show's 13 nominations.
Television Academy Chairman Hayma Washington noted the "explosive growth" in television, where more than 400 scripted shows vie for attention across streaming, cable and broadcast networks.
"The creativity and excellence in presenting great storytelling and characters across a multitude of ever-expanding entertainment platforms is staggering," Washington said in a statement.
The nomination for "This Is Us," which also received acting nods for stars Milo Ventimiglia, Sterling K. Brown and Chrissy Metz, make the show the first from one of the four leading U.S. broadcast networks to enter the Emmy drama series contest since CBS's "The Good Wife" in 2011.
"For our show to even be in a general conversation with these other stellar programs - it’s beyond our wildest dreams," said Dan Fogelman, creator of "This Is Us."
Among networks, HBO again had the highest overall tally, with 111 nods, mostly because of multiple nominations for crime drama "The Night Of" and female-driven murder mystery "Big Little Lies."
“When we started on this journey, we never thought the series would connect on such a big way worldwide," said "Big Little Lies" star Nicole Kidman, who was among four actresses on the limited series to get Emmy nominations.
Streaming upstart Netflix followed with 91 nominations and NBC at 64.
Perennial Emmy favorite "Saturday Night Live," which has been on a ratings roll with its parodies of U.S. President Donald Trump and key figures in his administration, earned nods for Alec Baldwin, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Vanessa Bayer as well as a best variety sketch series nomination.
Talk show hosts Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee and John Oliver, who also have mercilessly skewered Trump and his policies, won nominations in the variety show category.
The comedy series race features more familiar faces, with two-time Emmy-winning political satire "Veep" nominated again. Millennial hip-hop show "Atlanta," family racial comedy "black-ish," "Modern Family," "Master of None," "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and tech comedy "Silicon Valley" round out the competition.
First-time Emmy nominees included Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro for his role as disgraced financier Bernard Madoff in "The Wizard of Lies," 13-year-old newcomer Millie Bobby Brown for "Stranger Things" and Britain's Claire Foy for her portrayal of a young Queen Elizabeth II in "The Crown."
The Emmy awards will be presented at a ceremony hosted by Stephen Colbert in Los Angeles on Sept. 17.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy and Jill Serjeant; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Leslie Adler)