A Meeting Of Tech, Content In Vegas


On the opening night of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the curtain will also rise on the inaugural ceremony of the Global Media Awards. Presented by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in partnership with the Consumer Electronics Association, the awards recognize the intersection of entertainment and technology in the broadband universe. 

“We wanted to launch a new brand that would look toward the future of television,” said NATAS chief administrative officer Paul Pillitteri. “The whole world of new media is blossoming in so many ways.”

The Global Media Awards are the brainchild of NATAS chief operating officer Carolyn Grippi. “We were very much aware of the need to recognize the work being done,” Grippi said. “The question was how could we create a brand that would be as prestigious one day as the Emmys, so we had to figure out the same kind of controls and qualifications as the Emmys.” 

The television executives at NATAS reached out to experts in the new media field to help them design categories, establish criteria and select judges. One of them was David Wertheimer, CEO of the Entertainment Technology Center, a consortium based at the University of Southern California that brings together Hollywood studios, consumer electronics companies and others to explore new ways of distributing content. 

Wertheimer, now the Global Media Awards vice chairman, recalled how consortium member and Warner Bros. executive vice president of emerging technologies Chuck Dages brought him on board. 

“My first reaction was that this was a great idea, I have felt for a long time there was no really high-profile recognition for emerging media the way there is for television and feature film,” Wertheimer said. “We need to give awards to really deserving people who are sticking their necks out to break new ground.” 

To raise the GMAs’ profile in tech circles, the academy also decided to partner with the CEA. Grippi said that while NATAS designed and oversaw the entire project, it ran everything by the CEA first. The CEA provided not only the main stage event this week to launch the awards, but also some extra marketing muscle to promote it. 

“They were smart to partner with CEA because they each bring the stature in their worlds,” said Wertheimer.

NATAS also wanted to avoid what it saw as the pitfall of what is now the most well-known broadband award, the Webby, which gives out hundreds of awards in an endless parade of categories. 

“We don’t want to give an award to everyone on the Web,” Pillitteri said. “We eventually want this to become the Nobel Prize of new media.” 

Wertheimer, who credits Dages with helping NATAS draw up the initial categories and qualifications, agrees. “For the award to be meaningful, it has to be a scarce resource that a large number of people are vying for.” 

The result was just seven categories, but Pillitteri pointed out NATAS also remained open-mined and let the entries shape the categories. For instance, in the short-form and long-form categories, NATAS found it needed to split the competitors into informational and entertainment subsets; in the platform category, it grouped the entries by hardware, software, interactive and advertising. 

For a complete listing of categories and nominees, click here

The awards were first announced in June with entry deadlines in early September. Given the short deadline, Grippi said, “we were surprised that every major company entered.” 

There were over 100 entries overall, from most of the major players, including MTV, Disney, Discovery, as well as YouTube, Warner Bros. and Scripps Networks, among others. 

The academy also had to find and vet judges who were experts in each category. NATAS asked individuals such as Wertheimer to judge and to help recruit others who are, as he says, “industry players but with an impartial sense of the landscape.” 

The judges, who were asked to rate entries on criteria such as content, intent and execution, were scattered across the country and did not know who was also judging in each category. The top scores qualify as nominees with the top scorer being simultaneously determined as the winner. (NATAS is also using the same accounting firm that it uses for the Emmys, Lutz & Carr, to keep the winners secret.) 

“We’re not telling the judges what we personally think,” Pilletteri said. “We’re letting them tell us.”

Still, the awards’ creators are keeping an open mind about how they may change and improve in the future.

“Just like the Emmys, this will continue to evolve,” Pilletteri said, explaining that some qualifications or criteria could change, some categories may drop and some may be added — it’s even possible that the written word could find its way into a category. 

“You have to start somewhere and this was a great first cut,” Wertheimer said. “You take your best shot and get it out there. The medium is evolving so this will evolve.” 

Pillitteri added that the trick will be to limit the number of categories while making the awards feel big in scope. “We want to be all-encompassing and we don’t want to put any restriction on this because we are responding to the changes that are coming through.” 

This year’s Global Media Awards winners will be announced on Jan. 8 at The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas