'And the award goes to . . .': Digital entertainment leaders honored at first annual Billboard conference

Think the Emmys and Oscars are the big awards events in Hollywood? Then you haven’t heard of the first annual Billboard magazine 2004 Digital Entertainment Awards (DEA). The Nov. 5 event will honor achievements in digital games, music, film, television and video. Billboard, an authority on music, video and digital entertainment, has created this event in partnership with Digital Media Wire, a digital industry news organization and events company.

Ned Sherman, co-chair of the Billboard Digital Entertainment Awards and CEO of Digital Media Wire, shared a few minutes in the midst of this event to talk about it.

Q: What is your vision behind the first annual Digital Entertainment Awards?

Sherman: The Digital Entertainment Awards is a partnership between my company, Digital Media Wire, and Billboard magazine. We conceived of this as an idea about a year ago as we began to see more and more overlap between entertainment industries and technology providers. The idea was really to look at entertainment as a constantly evolving area that’s tied to really no particular platform or shape in time, but constantly being shaped by new developments, both on the technology front as well as on the creator front.

Q: Which companies or individuals are considered for the awards?

Sherman: The awards process, which began back in May, was a submission process. We had hundreds of companies from literally all over the world enter 26 different awards categories. The categories range from video games, like the best PC or console games of the year, digital music innovation awards, the best online music service and film, television, video awards like the best use of technology in a feature film. There was also a process whereby our group of 17 jurors of industry experts could make nominations as well. We ended up with hundreds of entries and the jurors went through a pretty extensive evaluation of all the entries.

Q: Why don’t you list some of the nominees from some of the categories for us?

Sherman: Companies in the games area are MovieSoft, Sega, Nintendo, Atari, Activision, Electronic Arts and Vivendi Games. In the film/television/video area, Sony Pictures Digital, Walt Disney, TIVO. In the music category we have a range that went from Apple iTunes to the RealNetworks Rhapsody group to Napster and to some of the performers like Prince, whose MPG music club is in the running for best use of technology by an artist, and Island Def Jam for best use of technology by a music label.

Q: What is the reaction you’re getting from the entertainment community in Southern California?

Sherman: There is definitely a lot of excitement about this event. There are a couple of factors. One is the Hollywoodization of the game industry. We’ve seen, more and more in the last few years, budgets for game projects reaching into the high millions. People like Seamus Blackley, who is one of our keynotes, going from Microsoft Xbox group into an agent role at CAA—and there are similarly game-focused agents at ICM and some of the other major talent agencies. Hollywood and digital entertainment are really crossing over right now. One of the goals of this new event is to bring together people who may not necessarily see themselves as being in the same “industry.” We are saying, “They’re here in the digital entertainment industry and you are all the pieces that make up the industry.”

Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based nationally syndicated radio and webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.