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Summary:

Integrating a show with a social network, like Prom Queen on MySpace or KateModern on Bebo, is a great way to attract and interact with an audience. But the world’s biggest social network, Facebook, has no such original content initiatives. Its one content project, Facebook Diaries, […]

funspace_katalysthq_mockIntegrating a show with a social network, like Prom Queen on MySpace or KateModern on Bebo, is a great way to attract and interact with an audience. But the world’s biggest social network, Facebook, has no such original content initiatives. Its one content project, Facebook Diaries, a collaboration with Comcast’s Ziddio, was hardly launched before it was forgotten. I recently spoke at length with a Facebook spokesperson about all things video, and she made it clear that such ventures — especially anything including fictional characters — are way far off the company’s radar.

So I was surprised to get an email saying that Katalyst Media, Ashton Kutcher’s production company, is launching its next show on Facebook. How is that going to work? I spoke with Katalyst’s head of digital, Sarah Ross, to find out.

Ross said the series is launching exclusively with Slide’s FunSpace application, which is kind of like a fancy version of Facebook’s Wall. That means that in order to even watch the show, you’ll have to both be a member of Facebook and install the FunSpace app. Why Katalyst would want this limited form of distribution to be exclusive is unclear to me, especially since Ross said Slide isn’t paying Katalyst, but rather both will be splitting revenue from integrated sponsor Cheetos. FunSpace is the third-most popular application on Facebook with 12.5 million active users — way more than most web series.

I got a little little hung up on the distribution details, so let me take a couple paragraphs to talk about the show itself. It’s a reality series (sorta, the sample episode I saw, which portrays the staff helping Kutcher prepare for an assassin movie role, involves a LOT of script and props). It’s called KatalystHQ and it grew out of videos the company’s receptionist made with her standard-issue Flip camera and posted on Facebook herself. She’s since been promoted to assistant, said Ross, and she’s in charge of the show, which is still shot on Flip cams.

Ross said the draw of the show is that the Katalyst staff is young and funny, and people want to see what Kutcher and his pals are doing. For the moment, I prefer The Office and The CollegeHumor Show, but hey, office life seems to be a rich vein to tap.

KatalystHQ episodes will be three minutes or shorter and will be posted every Wednesday. Katalyst’s other projects include its Blah Girls animated show and its recent “24 Hours at Sundance” live video competition, which it’s trying to franchise, said Ross. She said about six more projects are in development, with two of them including planned TV components as well as web.

So back to my original question of how to launch a web show on Facebook. It’s not impossible, but the conditions are not ideal. KatalystHQ is making it harder on themselves by going the exclusive route with Slide, but everyone else who wanted to do this would be in the same situation of using a third-party application on a closed network, too. Facebook’s audience is large and attractive, but it won’t come easy.

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  1. Nicholas Quixote Wednesday, February 4, 2009

    Nice detective work…thanks for the info!

  2. Wilson Cleveland Wednesday, February 4, 2009

    I’ve never understood why more creators and producers don’t launch their shows on Facebook. FB Pages make for decent show pages especially now that FB video is in HD. Promoting shows on Facebook via social ads works fairly well. I definitely agree Katalyst’s limited distribution via Slide is a head-scratcher when an FB Page does the trick quite well.

    1. @Wilson — But another problem is that Facebook’s video management tools are rudimentary, since they’re intended for personal sharing. No ad insertion, no analytics, etc.

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  4. FB users are trained to not watch video on FB. Coupled with third party apps now relegated to a distant tab on people’s profiles – and zero marketing help from Facebook Inc. driving traffic from homepage bulletins – this whole distribution strategy seems doomed to create just a faint echo in the vast chasm of online content.

    If you’re not good enough for oldteevee or hulu, then you need to be satisfied with having a mediocre audience anywhere else

  5. Personally, I have app fatigue and rarely add new FB apps anymore. Gaining access to a video series is not enough to motivate me.

    FB needs to create a better space for professional video content and music on its platform. I hope to see this in 2009.

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  7. If you have to use FB, the Fan pages are the best route for launching a web series. Pages allow you to upload video AND promote the series using FB’s ads. You can also use the forums, notes, photos and other features of the fan page to connect with your audience.

    I think we still lack a viable platform to fully immerse audiences in a series.

  8. It remains to be seen what kind of revenue Slide/Katalyst can drive from this web series. In conversations with a few people from Bebo, my understanding is that they never made enough off of their series like Kate Modern and The Gap Year to cover the costs of making those shows. The Katalyst series is probably simpler since they’re just using a Flip camera, so maybe they’ll be able to make decent margin on this. Would be very curious to know the rev split…50/50?

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