Sony Crackle Thinks Like TV, Acts Like Digital

ReneSony Pictures TV thinks there’s power in remaining subscription-free.

In the case of its free streaming premium video network Crackle, which clocks 22 million monthly uniques, it promises brand partners a 93% ad completion rate and an engaged audience.

Sony Crackle in April staged its first upfront presentation. “Because we see ourselves as a TV network [and] a playground for creative, not only with our originals and content creators, but advertisers,” said Rene Santaella, SVP of global ad strategy and operations for Sony Pictures Entertainment’s digital networks group.

In accordance with that philosophy, it recently launched a slate of TV-like programming called Always On, which includes original content. It’s also flexing its data muscle, promising partners GroupM viewability metrics in exchange for greater upfront commitments.

Santaella spoke with AdExchanger about some of Crackle’s content and advertising initiatives.

AdExchanger: Sony Crackle was one of the first digital video-streaming networks to host an upfront this year. How are you negotiating TV-like commitments?

RENE SANTAELLA: Viewability was a big factor with the GroupM deal. Crackle is the best of both worlds, so it delivers a TV advertising experience with the precision and measurement of digital. We know with [analytics provider] Moat we are 100% viewable and this is very appealing and attractive to an advertiser to not only get their creative ads exposure against movies and shows, but also know it’s viewable and measured by a third party. 

We want to make sure advertisers can create really integrated programs around our originals. We see ourselves curating and programming like a TV network, all anchored around long-form content, which is movies and shows.

crack artWhere are consumers accessing their Crackle streams?

A lot of our audience is on connected TV and we know through comScore that that audience is 60% more likely to be watching with someone else or co-viewing, which is something you’ll hear a lot about in the digital space as that measurement is perfected (to account for multiple viewers).

Crackle launched its first interactive ad unit two years ago with Innovid, and coined the permission-based format the “cRoll.” Any more developments?

We see interactive video ads as an important part of what distinguishes Crackle from a linear TV ad experience. Because it is digital in nature, you can interact with ads that are user initiated, so you have that overlay on the unit and it’s up to the consumer whether they want to engage further with the advertiser, watch additional videos or find where the nearest movie is playing.

You’re going to see more of that interactivity and it will get more interesting in the future when you tie formats to anonymous, first-party data where it can be more customized and relevant to the viewer and you can purchase things or utilize your mobile device in conjunction with viewing on connected TV. There’s a lot more room for growth there.

How are you segmenting Crackle viewers?

 From an audience standpoint, we believe you need to know your customer and so that means driving CRM and registration. We think we can do that with the value Crackle offers from a product experience standpoint by offering unique programming around originals, and a personalized advertising experience. The viewer benefits when you can connect the right brand to the right audience segment. So Adobe is our data-management platform and we’re also working with them using the Primetime platform for ad stitching. We’re trying to create a premium experience overall.

You’re in charge of programmatic buying initiatives at Sony Pictures’ digital networks. Is there more traction for automated buying or high-touch sponsorships?

I see programmatic as automated buying and selling using data and technology. It’s a natural evolution for our industry, and a tool and a vehicle for buyers and sellers. But at the end of the day, we sell premium video. And I mean connecting brands to premium content around originals, sponsorships and creating integrated marketing programs. This requires people and creativity. The originals are a big part of it.

Are you investing more in originals?

We’re part of Sony Pictures Television, so we’re a studio and a network. We have a dedicated team and originals are very much a part of our strategy. We see lots of upside there. At Crackle, we did over a million streams in less than a week [on a single original] and that’s phenomenal when you think about what that means in comparison to the theatrical film box office.

We have integrated sponsorships already – Infiniti is coming in on “The Art Of More,” our first one-hour drama series with Dennis Quaid that’s launching Nov. 19, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade is sponsoring our new original comedy, “SuperMansion.” We’re bullish about it and it’s a big part of our strategy.

How does a free, ad-supported service like Crackle remain competitive with new streaming video services entering the market daily?

It is world of skinny packages we’re heading to. There’s, however, a limit to how far a consumer’s wallet is going to go with all these new subscription services. We believe there is a home for Crackle as a leading free, ad-supported streaming TV network because the advertiser, consumer, content creator and network win. TV has been telling great stories supported by advertising for decades. This model works and there’s a home for it with Crackle.

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1 Comment

  1. Tom – I read that negative dbtaaase idea in the actual paper version of the Economist when it came out a few weeks ago. I am just curious how you hit on in the event you don’t get “The Economist”. In other words, what sent you to it? I only ask because I’m interested in cutting down on the blogs/sites I visit on a daily basis and if you were linked there, that might be worth checking out. (The explosion of news of all kinds is too much to digest – I need a few good “database” places other than the usual Oracle haunts.)