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.

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