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The Television Academy has launched a review of its Interactive Media Peer Group, “to ensure both the peer group and the Academy are reflecting and representing the future evolution of the television industry.”

In a letter sent on Tuesday evening to Academy members, the org noted that the peer group was launched 20 years ago “for the burgeoning new and digital media pioneers of television, with a focus on advancing interactive arts and sciences and fostering creative leadership in interactive media” — but now that the industry has indeed undergone a major transformation, it’s time to reevaluate the group’s setup.

Such a process will take time, and although there have been concerns by some members that the Interactive Media Peer Group might be completely dissolved, insiders stress that the Academy is still far away from making any determination on what happens next with the group.

“Because of these dramatic changes, the Television Academy’s Board of Governors recently voted to evaluate the composition and qualifications for the Interactive Media Peer group to ensure both the peer group and the Academy are reflecting and representing the future evolution of the television industry,” the org said. “A committee of current active, voting members of the Interactive Media Peer Group will be selected to work in conjunction with staff and the Membership Committee to review and assess the aim, membership requirements, and name of the peer group. This committee will also help plan programming and ongoing activities for the peer group in the coming year.”

In an October letter to fellow TV Academy board members obtained by Variety, Interactive Media Peer Group governors Chris Thomes and Lori H. Schwartz stressed that their membership “has evolved along with the changing nature of interactive programming.” The duo said they had submitted a proposal on how to update the peer group’s eligibility, structure and name to reflect that industry evolution.

Any talk of dissolving the group “came out of a well-meaning attempt to recognize that the industry has changed, the work has evolved defined no longer and therefore our definition needs to change,” they wrote. “It’s part of a larger effort to keep the Academy relevant and strong. While we agree that we need to evolve, we strongly believe that the goals can be better accomplished with a revisioning of our peer group.”

The Television Academy currently houses 30 different peer groups, including animation, directors, producers, performers, documentary programming, reality programming, commercials and just about every artisan field in the business. (There are even peer groups for TV executives and public relations.) Some of those groups have been added, merged or changed form over the years subject to industry changes.

According to the Television Academy’s website, the Interactive Media Peer Group “represents members who have an impact on interactive television programs that enable the audience to view and participate, alter, interact, and immerse in the program. At least 75% of work must be in interactive, immersive or experiential, and nationally distributed, programming experiences.” But categories that don’t meet the criteria for the group include “strictly technology responsibilities and network social media marketing that does not allow the audience to directly affect programming.”

But there could indeed be overlap with the new Science & Technology Peer Group, which “represents members who are involved in the strategy and development of technologies that enable or advance the storytelling process for the television industry. This may include advancements in software and equipment, interactivity, distribution methodology and approach, and/or engagement and participation of the viewer with the television program itself.”

Television Academy’s peer group membership rules are continually reviewed and updated; for example, last month the org announced that it would now extend membership opportunities to location managers for the first time. Location managers will now be given a subgroup inside the larger producers peer group, which also announced eligibility changes in November — allowing executives in charge of production, segment producers, field producers and transmedia producers to now all be eligible for active voting membership.

In their letter, Thomes and Schwartz addressed what they said were arguments that have been made to dissolve the Interactive Media Peer Group: That they don’t all directly create programming; that they’re an aggregation of mixed skill types; that their numbers are declining; and that many members are not still in the industry.

In responding, they argued that peer groups such as TV executives and profession reps similarly don’t directly create TV, and that other groups included varied skill types, such as the commercials, reality, children’s and documentary programming groups.

As for declining membership, they pointed out that many in the Interactive Media Peer Group have been shifted in recent years to other categories, including Science and Technology, TV executives and others.

“We believe that the continued presence of our peer group and member community will continue to be a significant asset to the Academy and its mission, including appealing to and incorporating the next generation of television creators,” they wrote.

Here’s the full letter sent on Tuesday to members from the TV Academy:

Dear Interactive Media Peer Group Member,

The Interactive Media Peer Group was formed over 20 years ago to provide a home in the Television Academy for the burgeoning new and digital media pioneers of television, with a focus on advancing interactive arts and sciences and fostering creative leadership in interactive media.

In the two decades since, the television industry has undergone significant change, with all media effectively having gone digital and the definition of what constitutes interactive programming shifting. Streaming and on-demand platforms have seen massive growth, social media and user-generated content have gained in prevalence and augmented and virtual reality are now commonplace. With this transformation, the lines between traditional and “new” media have continued to blur.

Because of these dramatic changes, the Television Academy’s Board of Governors recently voted to evaluate the composition and qualifications for the Interactive Media Peer group to ensure both the peer group and the Academy are reflecting and representing the future evolution of the television industry. In lieu of Peer Group Governors, a committee of current active, voting members of the Interactive Media Peer Group will be selected to work in conjunction with staff and the Membership Committee to review and assess the aim, membership requirements, and name of the peer group. This committee will also help plan programming and ongoing activities for the peer group in the coming year.

The Interactive Media Peer Group remains an integral part of the Television Academy as we continue to grow and evolve with the industry. We thank you for your continued support and membership.

Sincerely,
Television Academy