Sony's set to roll out new Web shows

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Web site owned by Sony Corp is expected on Monday to unveil a slew of new Internet programs in the latest move by a division of a major media company to bolster online entertainment.

The shows on include sketches by L.A. comedy troupe “The Groundlings,” and a five-minute talk show called “Anytime with Bob Kushell” hosted by a Hollywood writer.

Crackle and parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment, the media wing of Sony Corp., have borrowed from television by rolling out Web shows in “seasons,” marking a change of the haphazard way “webisodes” often appear online as soon as they are made.

Crackle’s new season begins on December 1. The shows, which use the kinds of production techniques that Sony Pictures puts into movies and TV, resemble other online programing by staying short, often no more than five minutes long.

“Just because it has higher production values doesn’t mean we’re trying to mirror movies and TV,” said Eric Berger, a Sony executive in charge of Crackle.

For instance, on Kushell’s talk show, which starts on December 18, he will do a monologue, a comedy routine and a celebrity interview -- and do it all fast, with an in-studio band on hand for extra punch, Berger said.

“You get your whole late-night talk show snack within five minutes,” he said. “They’re very funny.”

Crackle’s new season features six shows in all. The first to hit the Web will be “The Jace Hall Show,” which focuses on video games and begins December 1.

“The Groundlings” start their webisodes December 16. “Owen Benjamin Presents,” which revolves around comedic how-to segments, begins December 17. “The Hustler” and “Star-ving” begin January 12 and January 16, respectively.

“Star-ving” stars David Faustino of the former TV sitcom “Married ... With Children.”

Berger declined to offer details about how much the shows cost to produce or how much money they make, but he said Sony is using the shows to attract advertisers on the site.

The Crackle site had 2.4 million visitors in October, according to research firm The Nielsen Online Co.

“For us, this is a very solid business that we’re committed to as a company,” Berger said.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte