Dude, Where’s My Show?

Who is Ashton Kutcher? Ask many different people and you will get a list of his extensive acting career. From long stints on That 70’s Show and Two and a Half Men through to a series of comedy movies including Dude, Where’s My Car? and What Happens In Vegas, Ashton Kutcher is well known for his successful career in the spotlight. But, a smaller segment of his fans know him as a tech mogul and entertainment content investor with some interesting, new ideas about content production.

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Ashton Kutcher has invested his acting royalties in a number of little-known companies including Skype, Foursquare and AirBnB among many others. These wildly profitable investments have placed him at the centre of a tech boom, honing his skills in product design and user experience. That is great for the tech world, but what does this have to do with any of the Ashton Kutcher entertainment that we consume? Because, despite these millions, he is still continuing to produce content all over the place!

His latest venture has taken content production much closer to the world of tech start-ups, executive producing and starring in new Netflix comedy The Ranch in a significant move away from the traditional studio production which made his name. But The Ranch doesn’t only represent a move away from the production style he is used to, it also represents a change in the structure of the time-old classic, the sitcom.

There are a number of long standing rules around the sitcom. It needs to fit neatly into the 22 minute format so it is appealing to advertisers. It needs to be able to stand alone when played in syndication in non-chronological order on network television. It needs to have a generally broad appeal to entice a network and can only draw on enormously high-level viewing numbers to influence its development.

It’s 2016 and time to throw all these out the window.

Combining his experience in the tech world with his current content creation endeavours, Ashton Kutcher is taking a markedly different approach to his new show The Ranch to ensure that it matches audience’s viewing behaviour and expectations. And most of these changes have come about from the platform.

Netflix has significantly changed the way we consume entertainment. No longer do we patiently wait for the next episode in a series to be aired next week, we sit down and binge watch and entire season in one go. And this means a totally different episode structure is required. The end of season cliff-hanger is great, but there now needs to be an episode cliff-hanger to make you hit play (or sit there motionlessly while it ticks over) onto the next episode. If you aren’t enticed you will find something else in the endless catalogue which excites you.

But what about the audience feedback? Netflix is already embedded in the internet which means that social chatter has reached new heights. And then there is the platform itself. Every one of us is trackable around their site. Our viewing preferences, when we watch the shows, how we consume them, what other complimentary shows we come from and go to. Each of these stats can provide in-depth analysis of who the viewer is, what they are looking for and how to continue to make sure they are satisfied.

The entertainment consumption world is changing, and (believe it or not) Ashton Kutcher is at the front line. There are many lessons to be learnt from this mogul of tech and entertainment!

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