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Can the Streamy Awards and the IAWTV “Rebuild the Trust”?

In a surprise move yesterday, the Streamy Awards producers — who also head up Tubefilter — attempted to take control of the awards show’s future following this year’s bellyflop of a ceremony by reaching out directly to the web series creator community.

In a Tubefilter News post promising “The Truth About the Streamy Awards and the IAWTV,” Tubefilter principles Drew Baldwin, Brady Brim-Deforest, Josh Cohen, Marc Hustvedt and Jamison Tilsner stated that, after having learned a lot from the mistakes that were made this year, they were rarin’ to go for the 3rd Annual Streamys. However, their vision for next year’s awards is now in jeopardy, according to the post:

What’s happening right now inside the Academy’s Board of Directors is a classic attempt at a takeover. Certain members of the Board have taken advantage of the current situation to attempt to seize the show from its creators, and potentially shut it down.

Thus, a new site — Rebuild the Trust, which anyone vaguely familiar with Tubefilter will recognize as an example of their polished approach to web design and branding — presents their new plan for how the IAWTV should be restructured, which creators can sign as a show of support. (The original version of Rebuild the Trust called the plan a “manifesto” — it has since been renamed a “proposal.”)

The way they’re hoping to get the creators engaged is by completely reorganizing the board of directors from its current make-up — the five Tubefilter principles and six new media notables including ICM agent George Ruiz, Guild creator Felicia Day, Blip co-founder Dina Kaplan and DECA CEO Michael Wayne, who also serves as Chairman of the Board — into a 11-15 seat board that allows for two executive seats, two founder seats and 10 seats for creators. This proposed structure would mean that three of the five Tubefilter guys, as IAWTV founders, would have to give up their seats on the board — but so would five of the current “non-creator” members.

Via phone, Wayne didn’t respond to the takeover comments made by Tubefilter in their post, saying that “I don’t think that speculating on it is useful. We all agree that the IAWTV should have oversight over the awards ceremony — we’re trying to figure out the best way to do that.” Wayne ran a IAWTV town hall meeting yesterday in New York that he said was “very productive,” and a Los Angeles meeting is being planned for the second week in May.

He said that he’d taken a look at the Rebuild the Trust site and considered it an interesting proposal for how things should proceed; as for the bullet point specifying that the Chairman of the Board must be an active content creator (which, as CEO of DECA, would most likely disqualify him), he only said that “I serve at the board’s desire — if the board decides that I shouldn’t be the chairman anymore, I’ll step down.”

The rest of the board has remained for the most part silent since Rebuild the Trust was launched, though in the case of Felicia Day, that is because she is #speechless:

The Tubefilter team is fighting for what they’ve spent the last two years working to build — and like most start-ups, they have not made a profit from the Streamy Awards. In fact, Tubefilter Inc. is a self-funded enterprise without any venture capital, and according to Brim-Deforest via phone “all five of the founders put their pocketbooks on the line for the show and committed their own personal funds to making it happen.”

Brim-Deforest also stood by the Tubefilter News claim that “certain members of the board” were attempting to seize control of the show, but declined to specify who they might be. “It was not the intention to imply all members of the board,” he said, “and I have the utmost respect for all the members of the board and know that we can find solutions that are amicable.”

However, by attempting to turn Rebuild the Trust into a movement for change, and by casting the blame for the lack of transparency surrounding the Streamys at the IAWTV board, they’ve succeeded in alienating six powerful members of the online video world. And frankly, when you implicate Felicia Day as being a part of a “classic attempt at a takeover,” you might as well go ahead and punch Julia Roberts in the face while you’re at it. Alienating Day and her fanbase is not the way to get web series creators on your side.

It’s no secret that the non-Tubefilter members of the board were furious after the Streamys this year — by handing over complete control of the show’s content to Tubefilter, they allowed their names, reputations and (thanks to the show’s programs) headshots to be connected with material that many found to be offensive and insulting to the community. What Tubefilter is characterizing as a takeover looks, from the cheap seats, like a completely understandable effort on the part of the IAWTV board to set up controls and oversight that make sure one company does not have total authority over what should be a community-owned event.

The problem is that Tubefilter is now comparing itself to the starving web video artists it covers. In “The Truth About the Streamys” post, there was a frank mention of the fact that Tubefilter owns the Streamy Awards, and when I asked yesterday on Twitter how long that had been the case, Brim-Deforest replied that “The Streamys, like most independent web series is owned by its creators.” This is not a stance that is going to allow for a lot of compromises.

Tubefilter’s aim with “Rebuild the Trust” is clearly to enlist the community’s support while it negotiates with the rest of the board over the Streamys future. But as of 8 AM this morning, nearly 20 hours after the site went online, only 19 people had signed the proposal, six of whom were Tubefilter founders or employees. The rest of the community remains skeptical of Tubefilter’s motivations, specific points of its proposal and the wiseness of this “dirty laundry” approach to negotiating with the rest of the board. (See previous points regarding Felicia Day.) In an open letter this morning, CEO Mike Hudack implored Tubefilter to hand over Streamys ownership to the IAWTV, saying that:

Transferring ownership — or, perhaps, leasing the marks for a number of years — to the IAWTV is not defeat. It is not even a compromise. It is a natural and admirable result of the success that you have had so far. It is an acknowledgment that you have been so successful in building a brand and a show and an idea that the torch must now be passed to the community. Because the community loves what you have created, and wants to shepherd it, and grow it, and build it into something big and meaningful and transformative.

Tubefilter deserves all the credit in the world for what it’s accomplished, and by pioneering these initiatives it has done the community a great service. At this point, though, it seems as though both the Streamys and the IAWTV need to grow up in order to fulfill their potential — and as long as one company is attempting to control both organizations, that will never happen.

Disclosure: NewTeeVee is a Streamy Awards media partner and I am officially a co-founder of the IAWTV. I am not a board member and have no authority within either organization beyond voting in the awards.

Related GigaOm Pro Content (subscription required): Should You Super-Syndicate Your Web Series?

28 Responses to “Can the Streamy Awards and the IAWTV “Rebuild the Trust”?”

  1. I figure so long as we’re pointing fingers, I might as well point a finger at myself.

    I’m Drew Baldwin, and I am a founder of Tubefilter and I was the Executive Producer of the Streamy Awards. And as the head writer and creative producer, I guided the Streamys this year with my creative vision, and I take full responsibility for this year’s show.

    Many of you expressed that you felt insulted, hurt, angry, and betrayed by this year’s Streamy Awards. And for those of you who know me, it was baffling how I could have let this happen. Over the past two weeks, in the midst of wrapping production, I have been asking myself the same question. I’ve been advised not to share my thoughts, to keep my head down and let it blow over, but I really can’t hold it in any longer.

    We modeled last year’s and this year’s Streamy Awards after a big time tv awards show with the hopes to get more mainstream attention for the industry, to get more sponsor dollars flowing into the space, and to prove to the world that the independent content produced on the web was worthy of a first-class event. And last year we did it, for nothing, just with our guts and our will and a lot of help and favors.

    And this year we were planning to knock it out of the park. We rented out the glorious Orpheum Theatre. We had Streamys winner Kim Bailey from Tiki Bar TV design a beautiful set. We had dance numbers, musical acts, stunt performers, and a guy in a bunny suit—all talent from web series we know and love. We booked an established comedian as our host. We brought on a powerful publicity firm and invited press-worthy Hollywood talent to attend and participate in this year’s show. There was even a live red carpet show. The buzz and build-up for web television was unprecedented; and all attention was focused on our community. This was our time to shine. This was going to be a show to remember.

    Then I watched, stunned, as what I and my partners invested the last years of our lives building up was completely destroyed in a matter of a few hours.

    Like any low budget show on the web, the Streamy Awards was a collaborative effort. I allowed our host and his friends enormous latitude in their comedy bits and videos. This was also the same for The Battery’s Down, Auto-Tune the News, Sparhusen, Michael Wayne’s IAWTV speech, and certain presenter bits. But one thing I expressed to everyone who creatively participated in the show: don’t self-deprecate, and keep it clean.

    As was obvious, that didn’t happen. From our host’s opening monologue and his comedy bits and videos to off-prompter ad-libs to streakers and molesters, there was a lot of insulting, offensive, crass behavior on the show, which only fed upon itself as the night went on. It was a train out of control. And I did nothing to stop it.

    With grand ambition and minimal budget, I didn’t allow enough time to review or rehearse everything that made it into the show, and I naively assumed that everyone would behave with respect. This was a critical mistake. And when I caught wind of the most offensive parts (much of which was moments before we went live), I was too intimidated and afraid to stop it from go forward, with the fear that the show would fall apart if I took a stand. As it turns out I allowed a more damaging and hurtful thing to take place instead.

    With all these elements coming together uncensored, what we ended up with was a show that was as diverse in scope as the internet itself. And it got real ugly. This was supposed to be the moment to showcase the best of web television, not the full range of internet video. This was not the show I was planning for. And it certainly wasn’t the one anyone else expected. I’m sorry I failed to exercise oversight over the content of the show. I like to consider myself a man of dignity and taste and this show did not represent that at all.

    I am not trying to make excuses. This was all my fault.

    Your feedback has been overwhelming. And although I’ve been silent for the past weeks we are not silencing anyone—the Streamys site is wide open for venting and comment. I’m listening, and it is devastating to hear how much I’ve hurt so many people, especially since the whole point of all this was to inspire and celebrate your excellence. I love the independent, stubborn, nothing-is-impossible attitude of web series creators—I’m guilty of it myself.

    I’m sorry I let our ambitions for the show overshadow the true purpose of the evening: to honor the winners. And it wasn’t just the show, it was how we decided who walked the red carpet, who we invited to present, and how we arranged seating priority in the audience.

    What I regret above all, however, was my failure to recognize how much trust and faith you all put in us, and what a great responsibility that meant. I didn’t think of the full scope of consequences when I took these risks. I’m sorry. I should have been more careful. Many of you had everything riding on this. So did we.

    I look forward to a new Streamy Awards that takes into account the real priorities of the community and involves more of you in the process. Next year let’s have a better managed and less ambitious show, focused more on honoring the nominees and not on entertaining an audience. Perhaps something between the first year’s Streamy Awards show and this year’s Craft Awards.

    With the help of the membership of the IAWTV, we are seeking solutions to prevent Sunday’s mistakes from ever happening again. This includes more preparation time, oversight, and approval from the IAWTV. Please feel free to provide feedback and suggestions. Your input will is important and is appreciated. I can be reached at [email protected].

    Thanks for reading, and for your support, and for caring.

    Drew Baldwin

    • THIS was the post we wanted to read on “The truth about the Streamys…” and in that apology posted early. THIS is what is gonna rebuild the trust, not what you guys were doing before.

      Whoever advised you to keep your head down, was completely wrong imo.

      Post this on the Streamys site and it’ll do more good than anything you guys have been doing so far.

    • In my life as an artist, I have learned that success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.

      This has been a disappointment for us all however disappointment is to the soul what a thunderstorm is to the air.

  2. Mike Hudack put it well. He gave credit where credit is due but pointed out the central problem that the structure is inappropriate for the need. Clearly a large body in the community now supports the notion that the IAWTV needs to own and operate the award show going forward.

    I do think that any Board needs to be composed of individuals that bring the skills and advice to the table that will be needed to support this mission. That means reaching out to both creators and non creators to create a well balanced Board that is capable of running whatever company structure emerges out of the current IAWTV. In that respect having individuasl who understand business, marketing (including advertising) and finance as well as production will all be needed.

  3. As a former nominee of the Streamys, I honestly feel that the WHOLE project has been wrong-headed from moment one.

    First, the world did/does not need another awards show. It’s just stale. Yes, it’s great to honor web video creators in some sort of public forum. And yes, such a forum is NEEDED in order for web series to mature as an industry. But that does not mean it has to be done in an awards show format. There are plenty of other alternative formats.

    The awards show format smacks of a “me too! me too!” idea in terms of trying to be like traditional media. Just feels tired and derivative. Given that even TV Land has an awards show these days, I’d say it’s safe to call the format stale. And it’s not like The Streamys even offered a unique spin on the format. The producers are well-intentioned and work their asses off to be sure– but the efforts are misguided and the execution is uninspired.

    Second, the name: The Streamys. This is an embarrassing name. How bad is it? When we got nominated, we were excited to tell people until… they actually started laughing when I told them what I was nominated for. Even journalists laughed. Laughed! Not because they hadn’t heard of the award. But because it just sounded so childish. Almost as bad as the Webbys. (NOT EVERY DAMN AWARD CEREMONY NEEDS TO END WITH A LONG “E” FOLLOWED BY AN “S.”)

    The Streamys should feel fresh and fun… instead they feel derivative and desperate.

    Finally, there is a conflict of interest in Tubefilter owning the defacto web video awards ceremony. If they are trying to create the MTV Movie Awards or The Blockbuster Awards (fun ceremonies that no one ever took seriously), then great. Keep as is. But if they are actually trying to create a legit accolade, it is a conflict of interest for them to operate it. It should be operated by the academy.

    I think the web video community needs to rebuild as such:

    Ditch the childish name Streamys or anything like ends with an “eez” suffix.
    Ditch the award format. Make it a party. A celebration. A tribute show. A next generation incarnation of something like The Kennedy Center Honors or the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductions or the annual AFI Tributes.
    Have it be owned/operated outright by the academy. Not by a for-profit news site with a specific agenda. The difference between the MTV Music Awards vs. The Grammys.

    I don’t have any gripe with Tubefilter or its intentions. But they went off track from moment one. And if this is an opportunity to reboot, I think that is healthy.

    • Your second point is ridiculous and I take offense. As a former TV executive I can tell you for YEARS you couldn’t get a decent actor to be on TV as it was seen as either a career killer or for has been. TV was the laughing stock. Mind you, clearly, Cable has helped save that as it is not regulated by the FCC and invites more creativity and experimentation than TV and broadcast networks used to see, but for you to say that you are embarrassed about receiving an award because its name carries little respect and sounds childish when spoken… that says a lot more about you, your expectations, and what you desire others to think of you than it does about “The Streamys”.

  4. A couple points:

    *While we were all bashing the Streamys, Tubefilter was pretty quiet. Now we know why: they were making a slick website full of buzzwords to spin the issue. I would rather that they just mea culpa’d quickly and let the issue die.

    *At the same time the Tubefilter was quietly building their Circle Of Trust site or whatever, most folks I talked to (and some that publicly wrote about the event) pretty much said the same thing: “I just vote. Nobody talks to me about the future of IAWTV, the Streamys, or anything.” In other words, most of the people who should actually care about this event didnt care at all. And now we all get to whine and troll on the internet.

    I think there is something else happening behind the scenes that we dont know about. Or maybe the whole story is the fact that none of these parties are all that inclusive to the web video community at large (but they are very inclusive to those in LA).

  5. This is a great post!

    I’m just a webseries fan… I don’t know much, but I’ve been following this whole thing and this is probably the best post I’ve read about this whole mess.

    And as a fan of Felicia, that point crossed my mind when I was reading the Tubefilter article, but I didn’t mention anywhere else (the blogs I commented about it) cause I thought it’d sound like a cheap fangirl argument. So I’m glad someone like you pointed it out.

  6. Destini

    The Streamys are a web series now?

    Wow. What started as what some saw as a way for both entities to work together is now a joke.

    I agree with Liz as long as one company is attempting to control both organizations, change will never happen. Makes me sorry I signed it.

  7. The people who produced the Streamys are trying to restructure the IAWTV — isn’t that like George Bush trying to rewrite the Constitution in the wake of Katrina?

  8. “Brim-Deforest replied that “The Streamys, like most independent web series is owned by its creators.”

    I’m sorry but from the vantage point of someone preparing to launch a web series from up here in Canada that statement is self defeating. The Streamys are an independent web series? That tells me that they are unaccountable to anyone but themselves and that they are operating under a false pretense. They cannot be both an independent web series and the voice of a diverse community of creators. The Streamys by my understanding are intended to represent and acknowledge the wonderful talents and dedication of new media content creators. There are so many issues and conflicts nested in that statement that it truly baffles me that this is a tack these folks think will move the issue forward in a positive light. This is a “web series” that has posted two episodes, the most recent of which was an insulting, juvenile disaster of disgraceful proportions.

    What I see from my remove is a group of individuals that are so lacking in perspective that they’ve largely brushed off the outrage that they perpetrated on the creative community. They’ve issued a few pat, half-apologies and now they’re scrambling to protect their turf rather than address the underlying problems that surfaced in a show that caused some real harm. Following this controversy from very far away, I can’t believe that the Streamy producers haven’t resigned or taken actual responsibility for the debacle that went down. They’re worried about a takeover? They should be worried about being run out of town. The brand they are trying to hoard might now be beyond salvage and is certainly diminished in value to a significant degree. Rewind the tape and look at the look on Robert Englund’s face while the pop-up guy fails to be funny repeating the word vagina over and over. Putting the year one Joss Whedon speech on a loop 24-7 won’t make it easier to get a legit media figure to risk being associated with this enterprise shy of a complete makeover.

    There are very few options that make sense to me, having the Streamy team point at the Academy and insinuate perfidy is not among them. That way lies madness. First decent course of action is to haul the board and the producers out onto the public carpet and have some apologies made to the community at large and very specifically to the likes of Felicia Day who managed to maintain her dignity despite the almost naked Mr Faustino touching her. To the presenters who were molested on stage, the Streamys are damned lucky they aren’t being sued out of existence. To the nominees and audience that brought their children and families. To the nominees and winners of the craft awards who were treated like poor relatives. In all honesty, as a creator, I don’t know that I’d be willing to be associated with such blind, arrogance. For the sake of the awards and the community, get off your delusional butts, tell the people that you hurt that you are sorry and hand the reigns to some grown ups. The IAWTV appears to have issues of its own to contend with, being in terms of governance, practice and transparency, but they are nothing by comparison. I want to be proud of my peers and have a means to acknowledge their efforts and success. That is not an option I can fully see at this juncture.

  9. “Disclosure: NewTeeVee is a Streamy Awards media partner and I am officially a co-founder of the IAWTV. I am not a board member and have no authority within either organization beyond voting in the awards.”

    This is like watching a middle school Model UN meeting lololol.

  10. I understand they didn’t want to make any abrupt moves/decisions following the embarrassment of the 2nd Annual Streamy Awards, however, their lack of immediate action at the time is very telling. Their lack of action is STILL an action, a choice, a decision in which they chose to pause in order for the hope that the hurricane to pass. I, for one, saw this lack of action as another embarrassment as well as the lack of resignations as a “finger” to the web community.

    I assume they will remain in existence for awhile (as they are not a profitable institution yet), but unless there are some drastic changes in “Upper Management”, I predict they are all but finished. It is dissatisfaction like this which creates rogue groups and competition.

    They will from this point on be seen as a joke (including they way the board is structured) and I doubt will ever be trusted or be taken seriously again (as they are structured now).

    Good riddance, clownfest.

      • My opinion is that the idea of having the IAWTV board shift more towards web tv creators might not be the best idea. As a series creator I know my focus will always be my own projects and what might benefit me. I like the idea that people who’s focus is the genre as a whole are behind the streamies but that’s just me.

        I do think that if the board isn’t happy that they should start a new awards show for July and do it however they desire. At least then I would have two chances for my show ASSISTED LIVING to be ignored.