The IAWTV Awards nominees mix up the professional and independent

The International Academy of Web Television hit a major milestone in its evolution this week with the announcement of the first-ever nominees for the IAWTV Awards, honoring excellence in web original content. Voting is now open for members in 32 categories, ranging from Best Drama Web Series to Best Distribution Platform, with the winners to be announced at a ceremony held during CES next month.

There’s a fair amount riding on the IAWTV Awards, as the show is not only a potential money-maker for the organization, but the final step in the IAWTV’s separation from the Streamy Awards, the organization that was the IAWTV’s original reason for existence and is now an independent ceremony that will be co-produced by Dick Clark Productions.

But looking at the nominees, one thing stands out — if the goal is to celebrate web originals, then the IAWTV Awards are a step in the right direction. No awards show ever gets it exactly right (especially given how subjective taste can be), but the spread of shows recognized represents a pretty good mix of productions backed by major players and genuinely independent shows.

Looking at the Best Comedy Web Series category, for example, you have the category’s shoe-in nominee, The Guild (Microsoft), (s MSFT) as well as Video Game Reunion (Atom/Comedy Central) (s VIA) and Gigi: Almost Pretty (My Damn Channel/BBC Worldwide). But Pretty and The Jeff Lewis 5-Minute Comedy Hour are both independently produced and distributed.

And if you look at the Best Drama Web Series category, it’s even better — RCVR is distributed through Machinima, and Pioneer One by Vodo, but both companies are web-native and the other three nominees are completely independent. This means that there are many nominated shows that will genuinely benefit from the greater exposure being offered by being nominated.

The emphasis here is definitely on web series as opposed to the more nebulous and hard-to-define content being produced by YouTube (s GOOG) creators (beyond stray nominations for The Phil Defranco Show and the Fine Brothers’ Kids React). And because the eligibility period stretched from January 1, 2010 to October 31, 2011, many of the nominated shows have been dormant for some time — it’s a personal favorite, but it’s been almost a year since the last episode of Fanboy Funhouse was released, and it may not represent the current web video culture as well as another nominee might.

Also, the IAWTV Awards need a better name. Or any name at all, really. The Emmys were named after “the image-orthicon camera tube,” according to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences website — surely there’s an equally obscure web equivalent to that.

Still, as a voting member of the organization, I’m looking forward to making some tough decisions as I fill out my ballot, and watching the live-stream this January. For years, I’ve heard the argument that the web series world may simply be too young for us to start handing out awards, but I’ve decided to be positive about this. After all, as long as the focus stays on the shows and creators, something that inspires people to work harder, make better shows and watch more web content can only be a good thing.