Casting begins for Apple’s ‘Planet of the Apps’ reality show about wannabe app developers

The TV showwill give contestants the chance to break through and share their ideas with the world, but how much will they really get out of the exposure?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2016, 8:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2016, 8:02pm

Budding entrepreneurs have Shark Tank, cooks have Top Chef, and aspiring filmmakers have Project Greenlight. Soon, wannabe app developers will have their own competitive reality TV series.

Apple recently announced an open casting call for the TV show that the company announced it was working on earlier this year. The unscripted reality show, called Planet of the Apps, is set to start filming later this year and is the first original TV series for the iPhone maker. Details such as the number of contestants or when it will air are still unknown at this time, 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 Owens, as well as music artist Will.i.am.

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“More than two million apps are available on the App Store, with new apps published every day,” say Silverman and Owens in a news release published 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 August 26. Applicants also must 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 tech experts, potential funding from VCs of up to US$10 million and promotion in Apple’s iOS store.

Planet of the Apps 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 TV.

“These shows seem to tap into and convey the broader message that anyone can succeed, despite the economy – it’s the American Dream,” says 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 says.

But Ouellette 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 says, 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 don’t necessarily benefit in the long term.

The truth of the benefits of a reality TV stint can be difficult to determine. But the value of exposure from a popular television show can be a huge boon to any reality TV contestant looking to promote their brand or business.

Ouellette, who has closely followed several reality shows and their stars, says she believes its positive impacts 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.