The Ashton Kutcher-backed YouTube channel Thrash Lab is now live, but fans shouldn't expect to see the actor in front of its cameras anytime soon.
Mr. Kutcher's production company, Katalyst, was among the first partners YouTube announced late last year to build professionally produced channels with original content, part of a strategy to build the next generation of entertainment brands and to ultimately siphon advertising dollars away from TV. YouTube provided advances against ad revenue totaling $100 million across 96 initial channels in sums from several hundred thousand dollars to several million for each channel, depending on the ambition of their programming strategy and the volume they intended to produce.
Katalyst President Anthony Batt declined to say how much funding Thrash Lab had received from YouTube. He also said that Mr. Kutcher's role is more akin to creative director or executive producer than on-screen talent, though he will have screen time in a planned show giving a behind-the-scenes look at how programming decisions are made.
In the meantime Thrash Lab is focusing on reaching a core audience of creatives that it can expand into a broader group of viewers, Mr. Batt said, likening the target to fans of indie director Wes Anderson. "Very few people are acting and working on that film, but there's a lot of people who wish they could have made that film, and then there's a lot of people who love what those creative people did when making that movie," he said.
Thrash Lab currently has about 25 videos up, or roughly a month's worth of content, according to Mr. Batt. The first three series are "Subculture Club," a documentary-style show that looks at subcultures around the country, such as the "Real Rydaz" bicycle club from South Central Los Angeles; "Rituals," another documentary-style show that focuses on what people do before a big moment, with the launch episode focusing on the indie pop band Foster the People as it prepares for a concert in Mexico; and "The Factuary," in which comedian Guy Branum "explains the things you need to know to impress your fellow party-goers at cocktails," according to an official description.
Mr. Batt said that the goal for Thrash Lab is to have the majority of shows produced by digital-media creatives who approach Katalyst seeking mentorship and funding to produce a concept. While YouTube is currently overseeing the ad sales for the channel, Mr. Batt thinks there's potential for brand integrations into the shows that creatives would oversee.
"Anything that has an upscale look that 's aspirational but with deep roots into the creative community" would potentially be a fit, said Mr. Batt, who said marketers like Nikon, American Express, BMW and H&M come to mind.
As for marketing, Mr. Batt said the decision not to have a Hollywood launch party was calculated. "Ashton will do some marketing for it when the time is right, but right now the focus is on the work," he said.