While at CES I had the distinct pleasure of attending the inaugural International Academy Of Web Television Awards ceremony that celebrated all things online video and included the likes of Felicia Day, Shari Lazar and Kevin Pollack. It was pretty cool and, to me, demonstrated how far we have come in the realm of online video.

The Inaugural International Academy Of Web Television Awards

The Academy handed out 32 awards for everything from writing and directing to acting and editing. I was hanging out with some of the guys from Daily Motion, who were nominated for best distribution platform, but unfortunately lost out to Blip.tv (who also happened to be a major sponsor, coincidence?).

Really, the whole event was far less about the massive plant polymer award (how very green) and more about celebrating the community and its content. Just a scant six years ago, online video consisted of cats falling off of stuff and people getting hit in the junk. We didn’t all have HD cameras in our phones and those phones were far from smart. Now, online video content rivals that of the biggest Hollywood studios, and is often more engaging and less expensive to produce. Plus, the fans generally feel like they have a much closer relationship with the stars and creators of the shows because the Internet is all about two-way communication and interactivity whereas Hollywood is all about pumping out stuff with little regard to whether or not we need another summer of say… disaster movies, or female CIA agents going rogue.

The whole event, while dominated by Shira Lazar, Felicia Day (and her various projects), and the Mercury Men (which I actually watched), felt more like a big group of friends getting together to celebrate the output of years of work instead of a snobby, uptight, elitist gathering of self-congratulatory douchebags. And that is what makes it different than Hollywood. Sure, there was some of that to be found but really, everyone was extremely approachable and many of them had extremely kind words to say about not only the teams they worked with, but about their colleagues and competitors.

Sure, it is sort of self-centered as the members of the Academy did all of the voting and there was not a category for fan voting of any kind. That takes some of the value out of the awards in my eyes but again, it’s not really about the award, but about the content and the community.

The fact that the Academy exists and that they have as many members as they do goes to show just how far we, as an industry, have come. Sure, the odd cat video is still funny from time to time and someone getting hit in the junk will always be funny, but a lot of the content that was nominated was some of the best quality video entertainment I’ve watched in ages. The winners list is below but other nominees included Cell, Aidan 5, Solo and Riese: Kingdom Falling all of which are extremely well done and demonstrate the amazing quality of content that now makes up original web series as do the winners.

Congratulations to everyone involved, whether you got one of the awards or not. You’ve all shown us that original web content can truly compete with, and even beat out, massive blockbuster budgets and traditional delivery methods. I look forward to seeing what everyone does in 2012, don’t be afraid to email when you’ve got something cooking.

Inaugural IAWTV Awards Winners

Best Comedy Web Series:  The Guild

Best Drama Web Series:  RCVR/Web Series

Best Hosted Taped Web Series: The Web.Files

Best Hosted Live Web Series:  What’s Trending with Shira Lazar

Best Animated Web Series:  Red vs. Blue

Best Documentary Web Series: White Collar Brawler

Best Variety Web Series:  Kids React

Best News Web Series:  Tech News Today

Best Educational Web Series:  DadLabs

Best Writing (Comedy):  Felicia Day, The Guild

Best Writing (Drama):  Susan Miller & Tina Cesa Ward, Anyone But Me

Best Writing (Non-Fiction):  Rudy Jahchan, A Comicbook Orange

Best Directing (Comedy):  Sean Becker, The Guild

Best Directing (Drama): Chris Preksta, The Mercury Men

Best Directing (Non-Fiction):  Brett Register, What’s Trending with Shira Lazar

Best Female Performance (Comedy): Felicia Day (Codex), The Guild

Best Female Performance (Drama):  Rachael Hip-Flores (Vivian McMillan), Anyone But Me

Best Male Performance (Comedy): Jeff Lewis (Stan), The Jeff Lewis 5-Minute Comedy Hour

Best Male Performance (Drama): Daniel Bonjour (Luke Weber), RCVR/Web Series

Best Host (Taped):  Kristyn Burtt, The Web.Files

Best Host (Live):  Shira Lazar, What’s Trending with Shira Lazar

Best Cinematography:  Joost van Starrenburg, RCVR/Web Series

Best Design:  Greg Aronowitz, Dragon Age: Redemption

Best Costume Design:  Shawna Trpcic, Dragon Age: Redemption

Best Makeup/Special Effects:  Greg Aronowitz and Kimberly Graczyk, Dragon Age: Redemption

Best Visual Effects:  Chris Preksta, The Mercury Men

Best Editing:  Tony E. Valenzuela, BlackBoxTV: The Series

Best Original Music:  Rob Gokee, Night of the Zombie King

Best Supplemental Content:  The Mercury Men

Best Interactive/Social Media Experience:  What’s Trending with Shira Lazar

Best Web Site Design:  The Guild

Best Distribution Platform: Blip.tv