EXCLUSIVE: Paula Abdul to Launch Casting Website

8:58 PM PST 11/21/2010 by Georg Szalai

Star has co-founded AuditionBooth.com, which aims to be the 'Hulu of casting' by connecting aspiring talents with casting directors, producers and managers.

NEW YORK -- Step Inside. Be Discovered.

That is the tag line of online discovery platform AuditionBooth, which goes into public beta Monday and wants to connect aspiring talents with casting directors, producers and managers working on such things as TV shows, particularly reality series, Web videos or brand campaigns.

The venture is driven by Live to Dance and former American Idol star Paula Abdul, who is a co-founder, equity partner, board member and the firm's creative energy; AuditionBooth president and chairman Frank Celli; and Greg Brill, founder and CEO of Infusion Development, a technology training and consulting firm.

Infusion usually provides trading and analytical platforms for investment banks and, in a yearlong, effort used its expertise, sessions between the founders and Abdul in her kitchen and input from casting directors to build an interactive video platform for AuditionBooth. It allows aspiring talents to answer casting questions and record and, if necessary, re-record -- casting videos via webcams.

Abdul is not the only big industry name on board. AuditionBooth.com is launching with audition opportunities for such partners as Telemundo, Reveille, Screenvision and women's clothing firm Dots, which is working on a brand campaign with singer Jordin Sparks. MasterChef is among the first of about two dozen or so high-profile shows that the founders say will be seeking talent on the site in the early going.

Music, modeling, dance and other verticals are possible future growth areas for the site, according to the founders. "I've spent so much time throughout my career nurturing great talent, some of whom have realized their dreams and some of whom haven't been as lucky," said Abdul, who put together inspirational videos and advice on how to and how not to audition on a part of the site called Paula's Blog. "The fact is though that in some cases the only difference has been opportunity - that is what AuditionBooth is about - the opportunity." For entertainment professionals, she hopes the site can provide "fresh new personalities."

Casting decision-makers can search and sort submissions based on various criteria, screen and comment on them and share with colleagues. The site's community can also use a "like" button and comments to express their take on certain members.

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Use of the site by casting folks, producers and aspiring talents is free. However, talent must register, and the founders hope to get a growing number of users to sign up for a paid upgrade to premium service that helps improve people's opportunities to be noticed by entertainment industry folks.

"Casting has been done the same old way as 20 or 30 years ago, and people have been screaming for a real intelligent solution with real business tools," Brill said. "And they want to reach beyond the traditional markets of New York and L.A. People tell us they are fighting over the same set of people."

While other web sites list talent opportunities and sometimes even allow people to submit applications, Celli said he sees his firm having a leg up thanks to Abdul's appeal and the technology. "Our proprietary technology that connects unique individuals to industry professionals is as important as the casting relationships we bring to the table, and we're eager to say you'll be seeing AuditionBooth members on screens very soon," he said. 

AuditionBooth has raised $4 million in seed funding by angel investors and has another $2 million available for future use. The founders estimate the firm will reach about 125,000 paid subscribers after one year and reach positive cash flow by December 2011 and about 700,000 subscribers and $172 million in revenue by its seventh year. It plans to make money via premium memberships, sponsorships/ads and licensing of its technology.

"We want to be the Hulu of casting," Brill said.

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