Sony restructuring Crackle online video hub

Wed Oct 29, 2008 5:27am EDT

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Sony Pictures Entertainment is ready to make Crackle pop.

The studio is shaking up its online video hub with new management, headquarters and an infusion of full-length TV and movies from the Sony library to complement the increasing slate of shortform originals already rolling out.

Sony has been gradually transforming Crackle, which it acquired in August 2006 when the site was a user-generated content depository known as Grouper, into an online version of a programed channel.

Eric Berger, who oversaw mobile entertainment at Sony, will extend his oversight to Crackle. He'll take the reins from Jonathan Shambroom, who was elevated to the top job at Crackle in February.

"What we want to do with Crackle is make it a next-generation TV network," Berger said.

Previously based in San Francisco, Crackle will move to Sony's Culver City base and be formally folded into the studio's digital content operations, which include brands Minisode Network and Pix.

Redundancies will mean a few positions will be eliminated, but some employees will make the move south, where Crackle will function as a 20-person team.

In keeping with its vision of Crackle as a cable network without actually being on cable, Sony will begin supplementing the originals with library films including "Jerry Maguire" and "Ghostbusters" and such TV series as including "Married . . . With Children," "The Tick" and "Voltron." Most cable channels are built on a foundation of library content, supplemented with originals that shape brand identity.

But a key ingredient to Crackle that differentiates it from traditional TV is a suite of interactive tools, including DVD-like content extras and chats with content creators.

With a mix of comedy, action and unscripted material, Crackle is being positioned by Sony as a brand that transcends genre but appeals to video enthusiasts, particularly the demographic focus of men 18-25.

Crackle plans to roll out as many as five 13-episode original series each quarter. Each of those four "seasons" will be anchored by one main attraction beginning in the first quarter, with "Angel of Death," an action thriller from comic-book artist Ed Brubaker.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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