Are you a reality TV fan? I'm not sure what it is, but I can't help but get sucked into shows like American Idol, America's Got Talent, and The Voice. The level of excitement that comes with reality television could be the attraction because it is very different from the experience that a traditional television series creates.
Do you prefer reality TV, conventional TV shows, or a mix of both? Let us know.
Since reality TV has created such an engaged audience, Adi Sideman and his team at YouNow saw the need to bring a similar experience to the Internet. They launched YouNow launched at TechCrunch Disrupt as a social television platform.
As Sideman explained to us, social television, or open television, is "the idea that anyone can participate in the TV experience." Through YouNow, he said that anyone has the ability to be a contestant, viewer, judge, or commenter.
Unlike reality shows on network television, there are no auditions on YouNow. Users simply need a webcam to broadcast their talent. The real-time viewing audience can then vote the talent up or down in a crowdsourcing fashion. The more votes the contestant receives, the more airtime he or she gets. However, if the contestant gets voted down, the opportunity is lost and the next person in the queue gets the spotlight.
Through its partnership with MP3.com, YouNow also offers contests such as an "Artist of the Week" for the following musical categories: Rock, Pop, Hip Hop, and Country. These finalists are also featured on MP3.com as the "Free MP3 of the Day." YouNow is also partnering with CBS and Indaba Music in order to not only bring more perks to the participants but to also serve as part of its business model.
The other part of YouNow's business model is a bit more interesting since it relates to the social gaming side of the platform. Both the broadcasters and the real-time audience members can purchase virtual goods to enhance a broadcaster's performance. For instance, they can buy a performer a background, give him or her tips, flowers, or even something negative, if they want.
Sideman told us that all these elements give users a new and interesting place to display their talent.
"The 10s of 100s of people who are waiting in line to get on American Idol need a venue as well," he said.
The service is definitely intriguing, but one can't help but ask why someone would use YouNow when YouTube has also opened doors for talent, AKA Justin Beiber. Sideman, however, explained that YouNow and YouTube provide very different but complimentary experiences.
"YouTube is a great place to upload your video, but YouNow is a great place to broadcast live and get real-time feedback," he said.
Sideman also told us that YouNow archives all its clips on YouTube.
Going forward, YouNow plans to broaden its categories beyond Music and Talk to include areas such as Confessions, Comedy, and more. The company will additionally be rolling out an iPhone app very soon.
"The promise to broadcast from anywhere and participate from anywhere is really the centerpiece of what we're doing," said Sideman.