Cabler keen on '03 vidgame awards; details fuzzy

TNN wants to prove it’s got game in the awards show business, rolling out the first televised kudos for the fast-growing vidgame industry with such over-the-top categories as best all-around badass and best free-for-all carnage.

The two-hour Video Game Awards will also rep TNN’s first kudocast, joining its MTV Networks corporate cousins in that often lucrative programming niche.

“It’s an important new tentpole event, and an important step for the network,” said TNN prexy of film and TV entertainment Albie Hecht, who will exec produce the show. “We’ve lowered our audience age from 57 to 37, and now is the time to step up and have this kind of event.”

Hecht said the show should be a major draw for the revamped network’s core demographic of 25- to 34-year-olds. Much still must be worked out in planning for the kudocast, the first ever televised in a business that grossed $9.4 billion in 2001 and is on track to reap substantially more in 2002.

Show will run in the fourth quarter of 2003, but much still must be locked down, including the qualifying rules, date and location. Hecht said he wants to hold the event in Las Vegas and hopes to attract as presenters and performers a range of talent from movies, music and sports, all of which increasingly appear in vidgames.

Other categories include coolest villain, hottest heroine, soundtrack, hottest graphics, pro sports game, celebrity actor and actress in a game and “most addictive.” The show also will honor “Game of the Year” and give out at least one award whose winner may not be thrilled: “Most Difficult to Master.”

Winners would be chosen through a combination of votes by fans and insiders, with TNN putting together an industry advisory board to help organize the event and give it credibility.

The show’s timing may cause some conflicts with the industry, however. Vidgame companies typically generate as much as half their revenues in that quarter, and accordingly debut their biggest titles in and around the holiday season. If the show is held then, it may be hard to spotlight top unreleased titles about to debut, leaving the show to focus on games released many months before.

“The game industry is not interested in supporting a show that honors games they don’t even have on the shelf anymore,” said Paul Provenzano, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, which runs the 6-year-old Interactive Achievement Awards.

Hecht said the show will try to peek forward by looking at upcoming major titles, while honoring the best of the previous year.

TNN negotiated with Provenzano’s group about televising the Interactive Achievement Awards, which are chosen by industry insiders, or putting together a fan-voted show, Provenzano said. Those talks broke down, as they have in every other case, over the show’s timing and other issues, such as convincing execs at some channels about who actually would be watching.

“I don’t think there’s a basic-cable channel we haven’t talked to,” Provenzano said. “When we go into these meetings, usually there’s one group that understands the demos match up, and another that thinks it’s all about little kids.”

The Interactive Achievement Awards will be held Feb. 27, tied to the D.I.C.E. vidgame summit in Las Vegas. They still don’t have a TV deal, Provenzano said. “A lot of people want to tie the shows to summer or E3, but it’s too late,” Provenzano said. “That’s why the Oscars aren’t done then either.”

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