Intel, Shark Tank producer Mark Burnett, and TBS are launching a bid to take nerds into primetime. The television show America’s Greatest Makers debuts on Tuesday night, with 24 teams competing for a grand prize of $1 million. The show airs at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times.
The show celebrates “makers,” the people who tinker with tech in their garages and build things that might turn into the next big thing. The show is a bit like Shark Tank, which is produced by show co-creator Mark Burnett, with a taste of American Idol. The show features rotating celebrity judges such as sports legends Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith, actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, and Massimo Banzi, cofounder and CEO of Arduino.
The show also features as judges Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich, business expert Carol Roth, and comedian and serial entrepreneur Kevin Pereira. The show is part of Intel’s attempt to jump-start innovation around the world — using Intel’s components.
The show pits 24 teams of makers from across the country. I’ve watched the first show and it includes prize seekers such as the team making a gamified toothbrush (Grush) and Fashion Glow Jewelry tech jewelry. The judges are polite, but they’re tough when it comes to giving the bad news to competitors who don’t live up to their standards.
“The competitions we’ve done before attracted a lot of interest, but it didn’t scale like we wanted,” said Penny Baldwin, vice president and general manager of global brand management and reputation at Intel, in an interview with VentureBeat. “We wanted to take it to the next level. Makers and engineers and nerds of all flavors are quite fascinating to the world at large as technology becomes more pervasive in our lives.”
Once all of the teams have finished the initial speed pitching round, the judges will choose 15 to move forward in the competition. Over the next five weeks, those teams will then face off against each other, with three teams competing each week for $100,000 and a spot in the finals. America’s Greatest Makers will climax with the five finalist teams presenting their finished products in one last round of competition, after which the judges will reveal which team will take home $1 million and the title “America’s Greatest Makers.” All told, there will be eight episodes this season.
“We have an extremely diverse cast from 15 years old to 59 with ideas that are as unique as the teams themselves,” said executive producer Burnett, in a statement. “We are looking to come up with the next big thing in wearable tech and smart connected devices, and these competitors will have to convince our judges that their product is just that. The competition will inspire a whole new audience of potential makers.”
The digital hub for the show has a lot more content. It has already received a million unique viewers, and it is more engaging than any content Intel has produced before, Baldwin said. As for making the show more interesting to non-nerds, Baldwin said, “Honest to god truth is we didn’t need to. The stories behind the inventions and the inventors who came forward were so fascinating. They had a story about a family member or helping people. Their stories had to do with real-life experiences and they were fascinating.”
On top of that, the combination of the team members and how they work together is also fun to watch, Baldwin said.
“They all want a chance to reinvent the world,” she said. “It is like Shark Tank in some respects. There are the back stories that inspire the inventions. You see their ideas come to life in collaboration with Intel engineers. There’s the pitch process. And there is the interplay between the judges.”
She said, “In its purest form, this is a form of branded entertainment. It’s a charming and interesting way to engage consumers at large. And to convey that Intel’s technology is woven into people’s lives.”