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, 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.