Each month, 18 million U.S. viewers access the Sony-owned, advertising-supported streaming network Crackle. But despite popular shows like Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Crackle still has a it of an identity crisis as it looks to make a name for itself among the likes of Netflix and Amazon.
That’s the challenge for Crackle’s general manager Eric Berger, who is making his loudest statement yet by moving Crackle out of the NewFronts, held primarily for digital enterprises, and into the upfronts, generally reserved for the major TV networks, on April 14.
At Adweek, I spoke with Berger about a number of topics, including his bold upfront movie, why Crackle didn’t stream The Interview last December and why he didn’t pick up the Sony-owned Community when it was looking for a home last summer:
It’s a great show. It didn’t fit in our slate at the time. Everything that we’ve done on the scripted series side to date has not been comedy. They’ve all been action, drama and thrillers. Features are different—with Joe Dirt, obviously, but the other features are action, horror and zombie type of stuff that fares really well for us.
There’s a lot more from Berger, who hopes to finally put the “What’s Crackle?” question to bed once and for all.
Why Crackle Wants You (and the Industry) to See It as a Mainstream TV Network
After six weeks of relative quiet, the other shoe finally fell in Sony’s hacking scandal today, as the company announced that its embattled co-chairman, Amy Pascal, would be stepping down. She released the standard statement for a departing chief, with lines like “I am so proud of what we have all done together and I look forward to a whole lot more.” But as I wrote at Quartz,
That was pretty standard corporate speak for a departing chief, but no amount of spin can disguise the reality of what happened: Pascal is stepping down not because of some longing to become a producer, but because of the fallout from the hacking scandal, most notably the career-scorching leaked emails that were at the center of the maelstrom that enveloped the company for much of December. The only surprise about Pascal’s departure was that it didn’t happen sooner.
It’s also the latest reminder that whenever there is a huge scandal at a company, especially a global media corporation like Sony, someone always has to take the fall. The only question is who is made the scapegoat.
And once Pascal’s hacked emails were made public in December, it was obvious who that person was going to be. The hackers might have lost the battle when The Interview was released against their wishes, but today they won the war.
Amy Pascal is proof that Sony’s scandal wouldn’t be over until someone took a fall
For my first story of 2015, I looked at one of the biggest head-scratchers in The Interview’s strange saga: why Sony dropped the ball on the chance to boost the profile of its own streaming site, Crackle. As I wrote at Quartz,
Yet despite a New York Post report on December 21st that Sony was going to stream The Interview on Crackle, a studio source tells Quartz that Crackle was not considered as part of The Interview’s digital strategy, given that the free site has no mechanism in place for charging consumers the $5.99 rental and $14.99 purchase fee for the film that the other VOD outlets have been offering.
Still, this is a major missed opportunity for Crackle, which has been trying to lure new viewers with several new original films and series (though only one, Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, seems to have any real traction).
This would seem to be the last Interview story I’ll do for awhile, but never say never…
Why Crackle, Sony’s big digital video play, was sidelined for ‘The Interview’
TV & Not TV, back on TV! I returned to CNBC’s Squawk Alley this morning to discuss my latest Quartz story on The Interview’s big first four days online. Here’s a clip from the segment:
It was a pleasure as always chatting with Carl Quintanilla and the team.
Shaking up Hollywood’s VOD model
Sony has released the VOD numbers for The Interview — and they are impressive. The movie earned more than $15 million during its first four days on the internet, and was rented or purchased more than 2 million times. Yet despite this seemingly terrific news, the long-term Interview forecast is still bleak for Sony, as I explained at Quartz:
By making those day-and-date internet video deals, Sony has also lost out on the additional VOD revenue that would have come 90 days or so after the film’s theatrical release—which means that its chances of making back The Interview’s estimated $75 million budget are exceedingly slim. The film’s online success might be a qualified moral victory for Sony, but it definitely won’t be a financial one—and that’s even before calculating the significant financial fallout from the hacking scandal, which could be as much as $100 million.
I also detail the other big Interview winners and losers from the past week, including Google, Apple and Netflix.
‘The Interview’ was a huge online success — but more for Google than for Sony
I squeezed in one last story before Christmas, thanks to Sony, which announced that The Interview would begin streaming today to a variety of platforms, including Google Play and YouTube. I put together this Quartz story about how this unbelievable saga has suddenly given VOD the groundbreaking moment it’s waited years for. As I wrote:
For years, premium video on-demand (VOD) has been a white whale for studios, which have been unable to convince theater chain owners to grant any leeway in their traditional 90-day exclusive window after a film’s theatrical release. Those exhibitors have good reason to be worried: This year’s North American movie ticket sales fell 4%, to $10.5 billion, and one of the most reliable moviegoing demographics, kids and young adults ages 12 to 24, went to the movies 15% less often.
There is a massive audience for this film, and this premium VOD release is perfectly timed for that. After years of stagnation, we’re finally going to find out if premium VOD is worth fighting exhibitors for.
And with that, I hope you all have a happy holiday season!
‘The Interview’ will finally give internet video the big moment it’s been waiting for
Well, that escalated quickly. In light of Sony’s announcement yesterday that it had officially canceled The Interview’s Christmas Day release, and “has no further release plans for the film,” I made a bold suggestion at Quartz: Netflix should save the day, and strike a blow against the hackers who have humiliated Hollywood. As I wrote,
Netflix, which doesn’t have a presence in Asia, is more protected from political fallout than the other multinational companies involved in this controversy. And the film’s marketing budget could be nonexistent. Instead, all of those celebs who decried Sony’s decision yesterday would suddenly become Netflix’s biggest cheerleaders, and the company would find itself with an army of enthusiastic—and free!—celebrity spokesmen, not to mention the invaluable free media coverage.
The company has long made a habit of rescuing discarded TV shows, including Arrested Development, The Killing, and Longmire, the canceled Western crime drama it picked up just last month from A&E. But now it could take things to the next level, and rescue a huge holiday movie.
Time and again, Netflix has proven itself to be fearless and hasn’t hesitated to make big deals that have upended the entertainment industry. Now it’s time for the company to step up to the plate again.
Hey Netflix: Be a hero and buy ‘The Interview’ from Sony