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With Crackle, Sony Drafts New Network TV Blueprint

By Matt Stump, Sep 30, 2016

Event: Sony’s Crackle OTT service has achieved
something approaching “hit” status with Jerry
Seinfeld’s original series, “Comedians in Cars Getting
Coffee,” lending credibility and visibility to the novel
television network.

Background: Launched in 2007, Crackle has been
somewhat of an oddity in an online video world where
brands such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon are
better-known. But Sony’s commitment to a free,
advertising-supported business model plus steady
pursuit of any and all distribution avenues has
elevated Crackle’s stature and financial performance.

Implications: Sony’s novel approach to building
Crackle indicates it’s possible to create a new type of
television network without resorting to the distribution
resources — over-the-air stations or MVPD affiliations
— that once were requisites of the category. Like Fox
Television during its 1980s ascension, Crackle has
grown up by leveraging a novel distribution strategy.

Seinfeld’s “Comedians” vaults Crackle into new territory
HBO had “The Sopranos.” AMC had “Breaking Bad.” Crackle has
“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

The Jerry Seinfeld creation is the sort of breakout hit that catapults a
television network into a new echelon, attracting new fans and creating
enviable brand visibility. “Comedians in Cars,” an abbreviated comedymeets-
reality series and a Crackle exclusive, has racked up more than
100 million unique streams over four years, helping Crackle build a
presence on the modern TV scene.

TV networks that manage to strike it big with a hit series aren’t unusual.
What’s different here is the blueprint Sony Television has drafted for the
creation of a new television network.

Sony’s approach with Crackle is faintly reminiscent of the way Rupert
Murdoch’s Fox Television came to life in the mid-1980s by piecing together
an affiliation of independent TV stations to create national reach, something
that had not before been accomplished. In this case, Sony’s path to the
market relies on an arrangement of non-traditional delivery avenues that
add up to significant presence. Stitching together viewer pools across Xbox
One consoles, iPhones, Roku boxes, connected TV sets and more, Crackle
has managed to bring to life something that resembles a national, free-toview
“television network” without resorting to any of the traditional (and
more expensive) requisites of the category: over-the-air TV stations, linear
cable distribution and/or coveted channel slots on satellite TV services.

Sony’s not the first to assemble this sort of outside-in market presence —
so-called “multiplatform networks” like Machinima and Fullscreen have
done similar things. But those services target smaller (and passionate) slivers
of the broader TV audience. Crackle, launched by Sony Television in 2007
from the remains of the acquired online video site Grouper, stands out for
its embrace of a television-like business model that’s unusual in the OTT
video environment.

Crackle’s roster of original and acquired TV shows (and movies) looks very
much like a familiar entertainment network lineup: heavy on situation
comedies and dramatic series featuring name performers and geared to
an 18-34 audience. The recently added originals “The Art of More” (Dennis
Quaid) and “SuperMansion” (an animated series featuring “Breaking Bad”
protagonist Bryan Cranston) are emblematic of Crackle’s determination to
look and act like a familiar prime-time television network. “If Netflix and
Amazon want to be the disrupters of television, Crackle wants to imitate it,”
commented The Hollywood Reporter.