As a platform, the internet offers an incredible degree of creative freedom and accessibility for anyone with a camera, internet access and an idea. This openness and low-barrier to entry has given creators a remarkable opportunity to pursue traditionally “unmarketable” ideas, reach audiences and make a living doing so. Why, then, is the winners list from this year’s Streamy Awards peppered with celebrities and productions backed by media-giants?
There are two types of Streamy Awards: Audience Choice and Overall. Creators submit their content to The Streamys where a “Blue Ribbon Panel” of individuals from a variety of areas within the umbrella of online video selects all the nominees and the winners of the Overall awards. The Streamys selection process is essentially a somewhat democratized version of the traditional award show formula. Based on the formatting it should come as no surprise that dick clark productions (producer of The Golden Globes, the American Music Awards and several other household names) also puts on The Streamys.
The Audience Choice awards for Creator of the Year and Show of the Year present an opportunity for smaller channels, like Show of the Year winner Sugar Pine 7, to mobilize their audience around the award show’s Twitter-based voting system. This voting process is much more “internet” than a judiciary panel as it rewards creators for personality, community and audience engagement – a set of criteria specific to the medium.
In Sugar Pine 7’s case, audience engagement and other internet savvy practices made it possible for their million-subscribers to outvote Buzzfeed Video’s 13 million subscribers and other channels that dwarf theirs in size. This type of internet underdog success story was outside the norm in the panel-decided Overall awards. The most puzzling of these big-name winners were Ariana Grande’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” cover and Honest Trailers/Ryan Reynolds’ “Logan feat. Deadpool.” Awarding these celebrities who dip a toe into online video leaves a sour taste – as if it were an attempt to validate and encourage celebrity participation in online video rather than validating and encouraging those who actually choose to create and make their way on the internet.
Unfortunately, there was a more problematic trend in this year’s Streamy winners: several of this year’s winners looked and were made a lot like TV. Particularly striking examples are:
- Verizon’s go90 originals Mr. Student Body President, Cold, and Psycho Family winning Ensemble Cast, Directing, Drama Series and Documentary awards.
- The HBO-produced Brown Girls winning Best Indie series (which raises serious questions about what The Streamys judges think indie means).
These award winners have more in common with the traditional studio production model than with the innovative, accessible spirit of online video. These productions are not bad or in the wrong by any stretch of the imagination – they simply don’t align with The Streamy’s stated creator-centric intentions. Whether intentionally or not, these choices convey that this panel of industry experts sees the trend of traditional media models making their way into new media as praiseworthy, even aspirational.
While The Streamy Awards have the power to recognize and promote up-and-coming voices and projects that reflect the spirit of the internet – they’ve undermined that power with choices that frame the internet as Hollywood Jr. rather than a valid end in itself. Perhaps in coming years, the Streamys could dig themselves out of this rut by narrowing submission constraints or expanding their community-based voting elements. It’s also entirely possible that they’re doomed by the conventional media-centric dick clark productions to continue rewarding celebrity appeal and corporation-backed studio productions.
This year’s Streamys beg the question whether awards like this are given to elevate the medium or to elevate the people within the medium.
Images: The Streamy Awards, Twitter, TubeFilter
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