Broadband content has a place at the Emmys

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Knowing where to submit Emmy episodes for ABC's "Lost" is easy. Knowing where to submit for "quarterlife," the series originally created for the Internet by Marshall Herskovitz that had a brief run on NBC -- that's a bit more complicated.

But for the first time this year, those two shows are going head-to-head in the run-up to Emmy nominations. Herskovitz reports that he has submitted "quarterlife" to the outstanding dramatic series category.

"I am very much in favor of this development," Herskovitz says. "I think it's extremely forward-thinking of the academy to do so. They're ahead of the curve because there haven't yet been productions on the Internet that can compete with TV productions."

Reaching the point where Internet-created content could have a home at the Emmys has been prefaced by a protracted struggle between the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences -- the organization that oversees the Daytime Emmys, among others -- and the Los Angeles-based Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. In 2005, NATAS planned to hand out broadband Emmy Awards, but ATAS objected, saying its traditional categories were being infringed upon and that new awards should not be created for new platforms.

Arbitration and a case before the New York State Supreme Court, adjudicated this March, gave ATAS the upper hand.

"We're encouraging people who create and produce products for broadband-casting to be part of the Emmy process," says ATAS chairman and CEO John Shaffner. "It isn't in the best interest of the Emmys to create another category that, in seven years, we realize should just be part of the Emmys."

ATAS, however, has created three new areas of competition for this year's Emmys "designed to accommodate the shorter-than-broadcast formats typical of broadband programming," according to a release sent to broadband producers and distributors. These new areas are subheads under Category 73, for outstanding special-class programs, encompassing short-format animated, nonfiction and live-action entertainment programs.

The release emphasizes that "there are no broadband-exclusive awards" and encourages broadband entrants to place their content in the main televised categories as well. But these special-class categories are an option.

Josh Rimes, creative development executive at Tornante, the Michael Eisner-owned company that produces through its Vuguru shingle, reports that Tornante's "Prom Queen: Summer Heat" and "The All-for-Nots" were submitted to the new Emmy categories rather than the traditional.

"It was better for us to submit to shortform rather than go up against 60-minute dramas," Rimes says. "Webisodes, for now at least, are a totally different form than TV."

Meanwhile, My Damn Channel is submitting five programs to the Emmy's new category subheads. "They're now allowing people who produce original video content for this medium to submit," says president and CEO Rob Barnett. "I assumed we'd have to go in against regularly scheduled television."

Proponents of the academy's decision to include broadband content in the existing infrastructure cite the evolution of cable programs, which now often dominate broadcast entries. "The lesson the academy learned is that a delivery system does not a genre make. Stories are stories, and we shouldn't confuse them with platforms," Herskovitz notes.

Internet-made programming won't be alone in short-format categories; cable is also in experimental stages. Simultaneously, broadband producers are experimenting with longform programming.

"It's very exciting to be thrown into the pool," says Doug Cheney, co-creator of "Prom Queen" for Big Fantastic. "We should be up against the TV guys. Things are changing fast, and in the near future, it won't matter, just like it doesn't matter now to audiences where the show is born."
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