WASHINGTON • Budding entrepreneurs have Shark Tank, cooks have Top Chef and aspiring film-makers have Project Greenlight. Soon, wannabe app developers will have their own competitive reality television series.
Apple announced an open casting call this week for the television show announced earlier this year. The unscripted reality show, called Planet Of The Apps, starts filming later this year and is the first original television series for the iPhone maker.
Details such as the number of contestants or air date are still unknown, but the show will feature up-and-coming apps competing for funding from venture capital investors.
Attached to the project are big-name television producers Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens, as well as music artist will.i.am.
"Over two million apps are available on the App Store, with new apps published every day," said Mr Silverman and Mr Owens in a news release on tech news site 9to5mac. "Planet Of The Apps will give app creators the chance to break through and share their ideas with the world."
Show producers are calling for potential contestants to submit an application video no later than Aug 26.
Applicants must also agree to have their app functional on iOS, macOS, tvOS, or watchOS by late October.
If accepted onto the show, developers will receive guidance from technology experts, potential funding from venture capitalists of up to US$10 million (S$13.4 million) and promotion in Apple's App Store.
The show is a new addition to a growing trend within the reality television world - entrepreneurship television. Coming off the success of Shark Tank, audiences have shown an appetite for business-themed competitive reality television.
"These shows seem to tap into and convey the broader message that anyone can succeed, despite the economy, etc - it's the American Dream," said Dr Laurie Ouellette, a media and cultural studies professor at the University of Minnesota who specialises in reality television. Shark Tank grew in ratings during the economic recession, she said.
But she is not convinced that reality television is always a great business choice for wannabe entrepreneurs. "Much like a free internship, these shows rely on the unpaid creative labour of 'real people' and the products are proprietary," she said, adding that these shows are typically vehicles for integrated branding or extended infomercials for existing business, such as Apple promoting its iOS store and hardware for Planet Of The Apps. But, she says, the majority of contestants do not necessarily benefit in the long term.
The truth of the benefits of a reality television stint can be difficult to determine. Producers of Shark Tank would not disclose the overall success rate of the "sharks'" investments, though investor Mark Cuban has said that around 50 of his 71 investments are currently in growth.
Other reports paint a more grim portrait. Shark Tank Podcast interviewed more than 70 winning contestants and reported that roughly two-thirds of them never get inked into contract once the cameras turn off.
Reports have also shown that the failing restaurants featured on fixer-upper show Kitchen Nightmares have a 60 per cent closure rate even after an overhaul from its host, chef Gordon Ramsay.
But the value of exposure from a popular television show can be a huge boon to any reality television contestant looking to promote his brand or business. Some businesses that go on Shark Tank report that they had no intention of signing a deal and went on the show primarily for the publicity alone. The show Bar Rescue, which helps turn around troubled bars, has a solid track record of 66 per cent of its 107 featured bars still open, according to blog Bar Rescue Updates.
Dr Ouellette, who has closely followed a breadth of reality shows and their stars, says she believes its benefits are limited. "In my 15 years of studying reality TV, I've found that only a few participants are able to turn their exposure on reality television into a sustainable career," she said.