It’s about once a day that we get tipped off on a new office comedy web series, and we really have no idea why they are so popular to make. Is there really that big of a dearth of workplace hijinks with The Office on hiatus? Are they just easy?
Today marks the return of KataylstHQ the lightly-scripted comedy web series from inside the offices of Hollywood-based Kataylst Media, the multiplatform production company founded by Jason Goldberg and A-lister Asthon Kutcher. During last season’s run earlier this year, releasing exclusively on Facebook via the Slide FunSpace application, the show racked up over 8 million “shares” from Facebook users.
This isn’t really a show about Ashton Kutcher, it’s a show about people who work for Ashton Kutcher. And by association, the office dons a affectation of cool, a hipness tied to working with Twitter’s most followed user, @aplusk.
To be sure, there isn’t a Hills-style semi-reality series—they are calling it a “fly-on-the-wall reality parody”—and the setups poke fun at the quirky norms of Hollywood office life. Call it a west coast version of The CollegeHumor Show, which made the move from web to MTV. Incidentally, MTV ordered up a full season of Kutcher & co’s internet-video-themed American Idiots for the fall schedule.
I spoke to Sarah Ross, head of digital at Katalyst, who oversees the series as well as their popular animated web series Blah Girls. She pointed out that the choice to distribute the series on Facebook was based on the observation that the company’s core audience is on the social web, active users of what she calls social utilities—Facebook and Twitter. “What we love about putting content through social utilities is the ability to actually share the experience,” said Ross. “Our distribution philosophy is around social entertainment.”
The 16-episode new season will be sponsored by Nestlé’s Hot Pockets this time around, in a deal involving Slide, Katalyst and Nestlé that is speculated to be around $500,000. This of course meaning it falls closer to the branded entertainment side of the web series bucket with in-character Hot Pockets promos on bookending each episode.
Ross added that after last season’s Cheetos campaign ended, they took the series out on market and received plenty of interest from major brands. She says they ended up picking Hot Pockets because the Katalyst employees, the stars of the series, actually eat them daily. The entire cast, with the exception of Gary Busey as the office HR rep, are actual employees. And the concept in fact evolved from the office receptionist shooting rogue Flip cam footage during office hours.
One thing the Slide app offers is direct sharing within viewers’ social networks, and for last season they say the average number of friends each video was shared with was 65. While it’s not as broad as say a tweet out to all of your Twitter followers, it’s a direct penetration within a trusted network of social relationships. Less broadcast and more correspondence.
As KataylstHQ is the first original web series to be released through Slide’s FunSpace, it has the fortunate position of being in an uncluttered field. If the thousands of other web series out there jump in the game, it’s could diminish the value of “share” from friends. But for now, the Kataylst team are sitting in a good position, with distribution, audience and sponsor all in line.
“Season one of KatalystHQ is proof that serialized web content can achieve the same level of engagement and reach as that of traditional television,” said Kutcher. “We expect this upcoming season to once again attract an audience that is comparable to that of primetime programming on cable networks.”