Crackle just got a few more passport stamps today. Sony’s online entertainment network, which until now had geoblocked its collection of original web shows, TV and movies to US audiences only, is opening up a bit, adding access to viewers in the UK and Australia.
A recent reorg within Sony, moved Crackle, the three year-old it rebranded from Grouper, under Sony Pictures Television, signaling a shift towards a more global aspiration for the network. Already Crackle had penetrated a pretty broad reach domestically, with distribution deals with dozens of partners across numerous platforms like mobile devices (FLO TV, Verizon VCast), TVs (Sony Bravia), set-top boxes (TiVo, Boxee), gaming platforms (PS3) and even online powerhouse YouTube. The next step was taking the model abroad to other English speaking countries.
Until now, complicated international licensing deals limited the network’s ability to open up caret blanche to all territories. And this was mostly by design. The idea for its popular original web series like Angel of Death, The Bannen Way and Urban Wolf was to drive interest online in the US through free ad-supported viewing while simultaneously using Sony’s international distribution arm to shop them for foreign DVD and TV deals.
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While access to Crackle.com will be fully available to UK and Australia viewers, content will vary as it’s cleared by territory, according to a spokesperson for Sony. That means program lineups won’t mirror those in the States and vice versa.
The Crackle.com site itself is primarily ad-supported, which means ad sales in these new territories are essential. To manage its ad inventory abroad the company has teamed with Unanimis Consulting in the UK and Ignite Media Brands Group in Australia.
“With unmatched premium content, from acclaimed originals to movie favorites, Crackle has built a proven distribution and ad network in the U.S. that we’re replicating now around the world,” said Eric Berger, Sony’s SVP of Digital Networks. “Our content is chosen and programmed for the true video buff who loves movies and television shows and also wants to discover the best new content on the web.”
Noticeably absent from the announcement is Canada, which despite its close proximity to the US is still blocked from viewing most Crackle content. With The Bannen Way’s recent score with HBO Canada, it may be proving more profitable for Crackle to hang tight for now from open season in Canada.