As further evidence of the growing demand for video content designed for consumption outside of the traditional living room, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced Monday that it has created an Emmy award for emerging programming formats.
Dubbed the Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Content for Non-Traditional Delivery Platforms, the prize will be handed out each year for what the entertainment industry group cites as the best original video work created specifically for consumption on devices that are not TV, including computers, mobile phones, PDAs and other video-capable electronics.
With the competition overseen by what the National Television Academy is calling a blue-ribbon panel of media professionals, the award will be will be handed out in recognition of creativity in editorial content and video production for non-traditional platforms.
The newest Emmy will be presented for the first time at the 27th Annual Sports Emmy Awards in May 2006, and will also be highlighted as part of the group's other annual awards presentations.
The Emmy will be handed out specifically for original material made for consumption either via broadband or mobile networks, including video blogs, Web site video programs, live events coverage, short programs created for mobile devices, and video-on-demand.
Entries must be less than 20 minutes in length, and programming repurposed for new platforms from TV or elsewhere will not be considered for the award. The National Television Academy will begin accepting entries for the new Emmy this week.
With an increasing number of mobile devices that support video being introduced and entertainment companies seeking additional ways to market their original content, consumers are being presented with a range of new options for viewing everything from the freshest political satire to sitcoms cancelled several decades ago.
As evidence of the trend, Internet portal player America Online announced Monday that it will soon begin allowing its customers to watch old shows like "Welcome Back Kotter" and "Growing Pains" via its broadband network.
Last month Apple Inc. reported that it sold over 1 million video downloads in less than three weeks after launching its newest iPod handheld, which can play the multimedia files.
Peter Price, chief executive of the New York-based National TV Academy, said the group struggled to make sure that the language used to describe the award was broad enough to include most of the new video formats coming to market. He said that the content industry is undergoing a change that is likely unparalleled since the dawn of the TV age.
"I think the word transforming can get overused, but here's a case where perhaps its time has come," Price said. "We were moved by the marketplace telling us that there is this wave of programmers exercising their abilities on these new platforms, and it became apparent that as more people bring video to market through new distribution models or software, there was a need for us to recognize that appropriately."
Price said one of the most unique elements of the award will be that it allows people with relatively no public exposure to compete against entertainment industry behemoths, and he indicated that both independent artists and well-known players in the field have expressed their happiness over the new Emmy's creation.
"This is really about the opening up of [content] distribution," Price said. "In the old days, you worked your way up through the industry and if you were lucky someday you got a shot as a producer; now as solo practitioner with great ideas and ability you can go against the big guys and jump-start your career. It's pretty amazing."
The new Emmy will mark the first time the National Television Academy officially recognizes original programming first aired on what it identifies as "new media platforms."
However, for the previous 57 years, the group has awarded Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards for Advanced Media Technology, which were distributed in recent years to people such as video game console makers Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp.
Among the people eligible to win the new Emmy will be creative artists such as JibJab Media Inc., the Flash animation specialists who parlayed a pair of satires based on the 2004 presidential election into marketable Internet fame.
After driving an estimated 80 million downloads for its humorous "chop-jaw" animations of President George W. Bush and his rivals, Jib Jab won deals to provide animated online short films to major players such as Microsoft and Yahoo Inc.
In years past, the company was disappointed to learn that its work could not be considered eligible for Oscar awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since its short films first aired on the Internet, and not in theaters.
Creation of an Emmy for new delivery platforms should bring the sort of attention Jib Jab Co-founder Gregg Spiridellis said he believes will help inspire new programs, and even higher-quality content, for emerging video services.
"The award is great because it recognizes the explosion of new content channels and reinforces the idea that with the growth of Web distribution and mobile video there are going to be all these new forms of entertainment becoming available," Spiridellis said. "It's also a great message that the best entertainment for these new platforms won't be TV programming repurposed for mobile, and that new types of content will have a chance to compete."
The animator said examples of such a new format might be comic book-style shows that come in much shorter episodes than TV programs in order to better fit the mobile video environment, or weekly sitcoms that air only on the Web.
"The Emmy awards essentially recognize the best storytellers in the TV medium," Spiridellis said. "There are going to be new types of stories, new storytellers and all sorts of new platforms for this work to be delivered on; it's really encouraging to see this sort of attention to help support all that."
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