RealTime IT News

Reality TV, Ads and All, Comes to Facebook

Short-form video abounds on YouTube and the Web in general. But the vast majority of these are user generated content (UGC) and promotional videos that don't generate revenue.

Hollywood production studio Katalyst Media thinks it has a better idea: a video series with a clear business model. The company's KatalystHQ series, which debuted Wednesday, has locked in a sponsor, Cheetos, for its first 12 episodes on Facebook.

Online video viewing accounts for 12.5 percent of American's total time spent on the Internet, according to Comscore's Year in Review for 2008. That's up 85 percent from 2007.

KatalystHQ is reminiscent of the popular TV series The Office, but in a Hollywood setting and chopped into two to three-minute Web-friendly segments.

The differences don't stop there. For one thing, The Office features professional actors playing everyday office workers. KatalystHQ is shot and acted by the actual employees of Katalyst Media, a production company specializing in digital media, television and film.

"I would describe it as a parody about working at Katalyst, though we're a pretty fun place to work," Sarah Ross, head of digital media operations at Katalyst Media, told InternetNews.com. "It's not scripted, but it is based on things that are truly happening in our office." And it pokes some fun at Hollywood.

Actor Ashton Kutcher and film industry producer Jason Goldberg founded the company. Kutcher appears in some of the episodes, including the debut episode.

"Ashton wanted to enter the digital media space aggressively, so we started out creating videos in the office," said Ross, who noted that most of the employees have acting or film experience or aspirations.

According to Slide, FunSpace has 13 million active users per month.

The videos began on a Web page, then gained popularity. The team then pitched it to Facebook, which in turn suggested Katalyst work with Slide, which offers the popular series of image and slide show services for Facebook users. Now, Slide is the exclusive distributor of KatalystHQ on Facebook via its FunSpace application on the social networking site.

Katalyst, Kutcher
Kutcher in a scene from his Facebook show.

A killer episode

In the first episode, Kutcher decides he needs to stay in character at the office while preparing for an upcoming movie role in which he plays an assassin.

This staff tries to help by making some rather feeble "attempts" on his life. Ross said a future episode will involve a staffer's crush on a certain well-known Hollywood celebrity who will make an appearance.

The episodes are all shot using basic FlipVideo cameras. "It has a very UGC (User-Generated Content) feel to it," said Ross.

"That's what resonates with people now and I think makes it more accessible. It's not professionally edited."