With the Hollywood writer’ strike in full swing, the TV networks are about to green light a lot more reality TV shows and other non-scripted programs. Wil Schroter, a serial entrepreneur in Columbus, Ohio wants to help fill those shows through GotCast (he is also CEO of GoBig Network, a Craigslist for startups and investors). GotCast launched quietly in beta on October 1, and is built specifically for online casting calls.
Schroter estimates there are 15,000 roles being cast at any given time by about 400 studios and networks, and 85 percent of those are for non-scripted parts. Yet the casting industry today, says Schroter, “is built for scripted talent,” not the everyday Joes and Suzies required to make reality TV believable. “Casting directors are going to YouTube and MySpace to find this talent,” says Schroter, “but there is not an organized way to do it.” That’s why he built GotCast specifically to find and surface talent for shows, both on TV and in emerging mediums like cell phones and the Web. Casting directors and talent agents can set up casting calls, and aspiring actors can upload images and videos of themselves onto a profile page, along with a bio and crucial stats like age, height, and weight. Anyone who visits the site can sign up to vote other members up or down. The top ten for each casting then go to a group of judges made up of real talent agents and casting directors. The finalist is flown to Hollywood for a shot at the part.
The site is all about self-promotion. You are encouraged to recruit your friends to vote for you through blast e-mails, and posting GotCast widgets on your MySpace or Facebook pages, or uploading your video to YouTube. Schroter’s business plan calls for 250 castings the first year, which he hopes will attract five million registered users (1.25 million contestants and 3.75 million voters). He thinks he can get that up to 750 castings by 2010 and attract 30 million registered users (7.5 million contestants and 22.5 million voters). He might have stars in his own eyes there. As I said, these are the numbers in the business plan, so they don’t mean anything. But it does illuminate the business logic behind the site, even if the actual numbers come in to be much less.
The two casting calls on the site right now are for Young Hollywood, which is looking for a fresh face to do red-carpet interviews of celebrities, and Get Out, an adventure travel show that will be on HDNet. Schroter has lined up future castings for G4 (the videogame network), SiTV (a Latino TV network), Ripe TV (on-demand channel that’s like Skinemax on steroids), and GoTV (mobile TV). These are all pretty niche, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
So far he’s bootstrapped the site with about $500,000 of his own cash, but he is looking to raise an angel round of $3 million or so in the coming weeks. He plans to make money primarily with regular ads, but also with sponsorship castings, and a $10 subscription for members who want to be able to contact other members in a HotorNot double-blind fashion. The sponsorship castings would be promotional in nature. For instance, an upcoming movie like Transformers 2 could run a contest to play a bit role in the film, which would attract all the fanboys and get buzz going about the movie. (A sponsorship like that would cost between $50,000 to $250,000). The dating part seems a little off target–is GotCast a celebrity wannabe site or a hookup site?
Whether this succeeds or not will depend on one thing: the quality of the talent it attracts. Right now the profiles seem a little cheesy, and there are other sites that look for talent through video uploads, like Crackle (which is owned by Sony, mind you). But GotCast is a sign of the times. The Internet obliterates search costs, for talent as well as for anything else. And in the Age of American Idol, everyone wants to be a star.