IAWTV Gives Itself Herculean Task of Uniting Web TV Makers

The International Academy of Web Television’s mission is a lot like herding cats — a bit of a loaded metaphor considering the idea of online television as a legit medium is up against a web full of silly cat videos.

The IAWTV’s inaugural meeting today in Santa Monica, Calif. was in some ways productive and in others frustratingly embryonic. The IAWTV is trying to unite a group of independent-thinking online video entrepreneurs into an organization to run an awards show, and possibly much more than that.

DECA CEO and the appointed IAWTV chairman of the board Michael Wayne gamely parried a wide variety of questions, desires and dissents from a roomful of members and would-be members, many of whom had flown to LA for the event.

For now, the IAWTV’s principal responsibility is to run the second-annual Streamy Awards show next year, but along the way it’s also hoping to structure itself in the Hollywood mold. Wayne laid out a plan for 22 peer groups — which sounds rather unwieldy given the total current membership is around 100. But to be fair, the second part of his session was addressed to prospective members, and the room for that was packed. No actual academy business was carried out; this was more of an informational meeting.

IAWTV membership will cost $90 for 2010 and it includes tickets to the Streamy Awards — tentatively planned for April 11 — as well as access to a newsletter with job listings, events and industry moves. The IAWTV is in the process of being formally incorporated and after that will be established as a non-profit.

What’s unclear is whether the greater web video community is on board to acknowledge the IAWTV as their core industry organization. While the group gathered today was a chummy who’s-who of online video — blip.tv, Next New Networks, Big Fantastic, Break Media et al — it was clear that attendees had quite a lot of ideas of what the IAWTV could be, not all of them compatible.

Some members shared ambitious visions for an organization to tackle the big issues in web content. Epic Fu creator Zadi Diaz and The Guild creator Felicia Day said they’d favor an IAWTV that was truly international and independent, advocated for causes like net neutrality, and deviated from a Hollywood-centered model. Revision3 CEO Jim Louderback volunteered to head an ethics committee to set standards on product placement and advertising.

However Geek Entertainment Television creator Irina Slutsky and FM78.tv founder Justine Bateman said they thought a set of awards voted on by peers would be meaningful, and a worthy objective on its own. Bateman, well-versed in the ways of the traditional entertainment industry, warned of the “rats’ nest” of advocacy issues.

Ben Mendelson of the Interactive TV Alliance and the Interactive Media peer group at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences had a different complaint. He said the IAWTV overlapped with existing groups and awards bodies and should do a better job of outreaching to them. And, to his point, Wayne and many others in the room didn’t recognize Mendelson.

Does building the IAWTV as a independent baby version of existing creative academies best serve the web video industry as a community and as a business? Possibly. If we look back at last year’s Streamy Awards, they were tremendous PR for web television. True, they may not have reflected the fragmented and divergent nature of content released online, but there’s no way for an awards show to do that. Likewise, the formation of the IAWTV benefits from following the form of academies for other media. And given its membership, there’s no way it won’t reflect the opinionated and differentiated aspects of web television.

Disclosure: As co-founders of the Streamy Awards and IAWTV members, we’re not without bias, though it would be unfair to claim responsibility for either as the real impetus for both came from the folks at Tubefilter and their new acquisition Tilzy.tv.