The Austin Chronicle

Greenlight Awards Premiere at SXSW

By Belinda Acosta, March 7, 2008, Screens

ON Networks is not TV. It's digital TV. If you're unsure of the difference, Austin-based ON Networks seeks to make "digital TV" a household word by sponsoring the first-ever Greenlight Awards, which were created to encourage more digital-TV production and to further ON Networks' mission to "change the way traditional TV programs are created, distributed, consumed, and monetized."

Distribution is one way digital TV differs from traditional TV. The other is in scope and content. Commercial breaks dictate traditional broadcast-TV structure (not to mention Federal Communications Commission regulations on language and content). Digital-TV series and episodes are as long, or as short, as they need to be and so far do not fall under the FCC's purview. (Four ON Networks' productions were recently named among the Best New Video Podcasts of 2007 by Apple iTunes – see "TV Eye," Feb. 15.)

If you're thinking digital TV is interactive TV or merely watching TV online, Karl Scholz of ON Networks will correct you. "A lot of these companies that created destination sites are going to fail because people ... want to create libraries of their own content," he says. This shift in focus – from drawing viewers to roost at a stationary site to drawing viewers to a place where they can access content to be watched when and where they want and on the device of their choice – is what recently brought Microsoft Xbox Live onboard as a Greenlight Awards distribution partner.

The winners for the first Greenlight Awards will be announced at this year's SXSW. More than 100 entries were submitted, competing for two awards: Best Original Digital Series Production and Best Original Digital Series Idea. Judges include actor Luke Wilson, filmmaker Richard Linklater, host of the Web series EPIC-FU Zadi Diaz, high-definition advocate Randall Dark, filmmaker Joe Swanberg, film producer Michael Uslan (the Batman films), and new-media reporter and commentator Daisy Whitney. The finalists will be announced at a VIP event during SXSW on March 9 at Six Lounge. The event is open to invited guests and SXSW badge-holders only.

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