Wouldn’t it be awesome to be on a game show? It’s not as hard as you might think. If you’re willing to forgo your dream of watching Alex Trebeck freak out in person–you might easily become the next contestant on YouAre.TV. The web-based television site was co-founded in 2009 by high school buddies turned business partners Josh Weinstein and Shahed Serajuddin. The duo had previously developed CollegeOnly, a networking site that unearthed the original Facebook concept–a higher-ed exclusive networking site–that had long since been abandoned in favor of social media domination. CollegeOnly is a haven for students who live in constant fear of scrutiny from parents and potential employers. Catering to the notoriously rampant social urges of its target demographic, the team also launched GoodCrush, a college dating site, and RandomDorm, a video chat forum based on the Chatroullette model.
Social networking sites, dating sites, Chatroulette–all of these have clearly been done, which is why, perhaps, Josh and Shahed have decided to focus 100% energy on their latest project. “We are trying to do something new that is totally unprecedented,” explained Shahed. YouAre.TV, in its current form, is a web cam driven online game show whose contestants are plucked straight from the Internet audience. But the process isn’t totally random–you’ll need Star Power to be a star. No, this is not something straight out of My Little Pony. Star Power is like a social networking point system that utilizes the basic concepts of self-promotion. You gain star points by sharing the YouAre.TV site with friends on Facebook and Twitter and eliciting votes from other users. The benefits of the Star Power system are mutual. While potential contestants vie for face time, YouAre.TV’s audience grows. This may be marketing genius.
What's on TV?
So far, YouAre.TV has been ironing out kinks with its test program, The Game of Boxes. The show actually originated while the two were trying to figure out how to get more people involved on RandomDorm. "Why not make a game of it?" they figured. Josh got on the site one day and promised users who could find him on RandomDorm the chance to win an iPad. “If you found Josh while browsing we would ask you a series of questions. We had these giant boxes, and contestants had to choose where the prize was,” explained Shahed. The game caught on quickly. Enthusiastic students got roommates and sometimes even their whole dorm floors involved. “People were more into this game than the actual Chatroulette technology,” said Shahed. “We knew we were kind of on to something with how crazy people were going.”
The Tough Part
Thus, YouAre.TV was born, but it hasn’t been all fun and games. Working out the technical aspects has been the most difficult part of the project, according to Shahed. The tech team has relocated to California and is working in partnership with Adobe. The YouAre.TV technology allows an unlimited number of users to view bidirectional video in real time, quite a significant feat, Shahed assured. He is confident, however, that the project will soon flourish. “The light’s at the end of the tunnel,” he said, “we plan to begin producing new content in the very near term.”
The Future of YouAre.TV
So what lies ahead for YouAre.TV? Lots. For one, they hope to update the Game of Boxes by inviting new hosts, expanding their fan base, and, most importantly, improving its prizes. In its testing stage, the team has been giving away mostly gag prizes such as pooper scoopers, puzzles, foot powder, cards. Surprisingly, this hasn’t deterred contestants from demanding their winnings. “The people are claiming the gag prizes,” said Shahed, “which goes to show the format totally works and people are really into it.” YouAre.TV also hopes to begin curating new types of content by partnering with real television networks or other producers. Program ideas include food/cooking shows, an American Idol-esque talent show, sports shows, and new types of game shows. Ultimately, says Shahed, “we want to position ourselves as a television show on the web having 24/7 content.”
Before YouAre.TV, the CollegeOnly team catered to a niche market of young and increasingly tech-savvy college students, who will undoubtedly follow them into the future. With an audience base already established, YouAre.TV has laid the foundation for success. Moving from the social media forum to the realm of real time interactive media shows shrewd progress on both the technological and social fronts. As we’ve seen in the last few weeks with the advent of Google+ Hangouts and Facebook’s Skype calling, vid chat technology is the hot thing right now on the web. YouAre.TV is channeling this tech-trend in an unprecedented way, rendering them unique amongst other social media entrepreneurs.
You can follow the progress of YouAre.TV by tuning in every Monday and Thursday at 9pm ET. This week marks the debut of a new program, Box or No Box, based (as you’ve probably deduced) on the popular game show, Deal or No Deal. The team is also introducing a brand new surprise host, and though I can’t tell you who it is (hint: think sports scandal), I am assured that he/she is fabulous. So, if you’ve always wanted to be on TV, gather that Star Power and stay tuned–your moment in the sun might be near.