Crackle Joins Plex Streaming Video Platform

Crackle, the ad-supported joint venture between Sony Pictures Television and Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, has joined Plex, a global streaming media platform.

Plex users will now have access to Crackle’s original content, including the recently released “On Point,” the docuseries following three high school players as they move through the AAU basketball tournaments and shoot for an enviable career in the NBA; “Yelawolf: A Slumerican Life,” and the zombie action film, “The Clearing,” starring Liam MacIntyre (“Spartacus”).

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In addition to Crackle Originals, the library of content includes Chicken Soup for the Soul’s “Hidden Heroes” and “Everyday Edisons.”

“Plex has a passionate community of users and we are excited to give them full access to Crackle’s library of free movies and TV shows, including a growing number of Originals and Exclusives not available on other AVOD platforms,” Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle Plus, which majority-owns Crackle.

The Crackle content joins already available titles from Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, Lionsgate, and Legendary.

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Nielsen Says It Can Track Amazon Prime Video Viewership Trends

Nielsen reportedly can now track viewership trends for Amazon Prime Video original content with the same software launched two years ago — with much fanfare — to track Netflix’s domestic TV viewing trends.

Nielsen markets the “Subscription Video on Demand Content Ratings” software to content clients tracking their programming on third-party SVOD platforms.

“This is a significant milestone for Nielsen, especially considering the upcoming high-profile streaming service launches,” Brian Fuhrer, SVP product leadership at Nielsen, said in a statement. “We think the addition of Amazon Prime Video will allow rights owners an added ability to understand both the size, as well as the composition, of their streaming audiences relative to other platforms or programs.”

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While Amazon hasn’t commented on the data disclosure, SVOD rival Netflix contends Nielsen’s data is incomplete because it does not account for portable devices and desktop viewing, in addition to global audiences.

But for Sony Pictures Television, Nielsen’s data for “The Boys,” which it co-produces with Amazon Studios, is invaluable. The series attracted 4.1 million Prime households per episode over the first 10 days of release — in addition to 6 million for the premiere episode.

“Nielsen has the ability to help us understand what these audiences are doing outside of those platforms as well — how and what they are watching on other on-demand and linear services,” James Petretti, SVP, U.S. research and analytics at Sony Pictures Television, said in a media statement.

Regardless, Nielsen’s viewership tracking of Prime Video and Netflix content does not necessarily fit into the marketing plans for the SVOD giants, according to Jeffrey Lodgson, media analyst at JBL Advisors.

“[Public ratings] would not serve Netflix’s plan or perspective on the entertainment universe,” Logsdon told TechCrunch. “Talent may try to use viewership numbers to extract higher compensation than a more simplistic renewal process.”

Sony Merging Anime Streaming Businesses

Sony Pictures Television and Aniplex, a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment (Japan), have announced the combination of multiple Sony-owned anime streaming businesses.

France’s Wakanim, Australia’s Madman Anime Group and U.S.-based Funimation will form a joint venture to be owned by Aniplex and Sony Pictures Television. The venture will be led by Funimation GM Colin Decker.

Under this structure, Funimation will acquire and distribute anime content from Japan across the global portfolio of brands, “each with deep regional expertise in serving fans,” according to a Sony release.

“Now with a larger global footprint, the combined businesses will expand their 360 degree, multi-channel approach to fan engagement that spans home entertainment, theatrical distribution, live events and merchandising,” the release stated.

As the first project of this union, Funimation will be the exclusive streaming home of the latest installment in the “Fate/Grand Order” series for one month. Starting Oct. 5, “Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia” will be simulcast in the United States on FunimationNow and will launch on Wakanim and Madman Anime Group’s AnimeLab in their respective territoriesFate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia” is the first TV animation series of the “Fate/Grand Order” mobile game, with more than 41 million downloads worldwide.

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“Anime is a growing area of importance for us at Sony Pictures Television,” said Sony Pictures Television chairman Mike Hopkins in a statement.By combining these businesses, we immediately increase our global reach and expertise in SVOD, theatrical, home video, merchandising, events and more. Along with our world-class marketing capabilities, we’re well-positioned to deliver unprecedented results for our partners and the best possible anime experience for the fans.”

“Through Sony group’s integration of anime related streaming services, we are thrilled that numerous Japanese anime titles will be distributed globally through its digital platforms,” said Aniplex president Atsuhiro Iwakami in a statement. “We hope our partnership will contribute to the further development and expansion of the Japanese anime industry.”

“For 25 years, Funimation has served creators, publishers, and fans,” added Decker in a statement. “By merging, we can extend our support of the industry for another 25 years with some of the most respected talent, and brands, in global anime.”

Netflix to Get ‘Seinfeld’ in 2021

Netflix has acquired the global streaming rights to “Seinfeld” starting in 2021, the company announced.

The agreement with Sony Pictures Television keeps the show exclusively on Netflix for five years, according to reports. Netflix will offer the show in 4K resolution.

“Seinfeld,” following the misadventures of comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his friends, aired for nine seasons with 180 episodes on NBC from 1989 to 1998.

“Seinfeld is the television comedy that all television comedy is measured against,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement. “It is as fresh and funny as ever and will be available to the world in 4K for the first time.”

“Seinfeld is a one-of-a-kind, iconic, culture-defining show,” said Sony Pictures Television chairman Mike Hopkins in a statement. “Now, 30 years after its premiere, Seinfeld remains center stage. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Netflix to bring this beloved series to current fans and new audiences around the globe.”

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The news comes on the heels of Netflix’s loss of major sitcom catalog hits “Friends” and “The Office” to WarnerMedia and Universal, respectively.

Crackle Plus Names Four Senior Executives

Crackle Plus, the revamped 13-year-old ad-supported VOD service co-owned by CSS Entertainment and Sony Pictures Television, has added four senior executives.

Philippe Guelton, EVP of CSS Entertainment, is now president of Crackle Plus, reporting to Elana Sofko, COO of CSS Entertainment.

Joining Guelton are three former Sony Crackle executives: Darren Olive, who becomes EVP of ad sales; Jason Schaeffer, who becomes SVP of business development, marketing and business intelligence; and Tony Simon, who assumes the position of SVP, content operations.

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Sony in March sold majority stake in Crackle to Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment (CSS Entertainment) in a stock transaction whereby it received 4 million warrants to buy CSS Entertainment stock.

Crackle has more than 38,000 hours of programming and 10 million monthly users.

CSS, which also owns ad-supported platforms Popcornflix, Truli, Popcornflix Kids, Popcornflix Comedy, Frightpix, and Espanolflix, is expected to meld the services into Crackle Plus.

TiVo Inks Software Deal with Anime Provider Funimation

TiVo March 14 announced it is licensing software to Funimation, the anime content provider and a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Television. The software includes TiVo branded content search and recommendation technology.

The software will enable Funimation to test, manage and fine-tune search and recommendation performance in real-time to help improve the user experience and generate more engagement from viewer searches.

The software is now fully operational on Funimation’s website and on Funimation Now, the company’s streaming video platform, as well as across a wide range of over-the-top video platforms, including Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Roku streaming devices.

As part of the agreement, TiVo is also providing Funimation with an integrated product and merchandise search function that provides a single landing page for both viewable programs and relevant ecommerce merchandise including DVDs.

“Funimation provides an opportunity to showcase our personalization technology for content providers to help them make the consumer entertainment experience more engaging and streamlined,” Sean Moore, VP, content provider accounts, TiVo, said in a statement. “Through features like ‘More Like This,’ viewers will no longer have to search for content they might like; the content will now find them.”

 

Sony’s FunimationNow Added to Amazon Prime Video Channels in U.K.

Amazon has added anime service FunimationNow to its line-up of Prime Video Channels in the United Kingdom, becoming the first Sony Pictures Television service to launch on Prime Video there.

For a subscription fee of £4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial, Prime members who subscribe to FunimationNow have access to hundreds of new and classic anime shows and movies ad-free, with English subtitles and dubbing, according to Amazon Prime Video U.K.

At launch FunimationNow will bring Prime members anime shows such as “My Hero Academia,” “Attack on Titan,” “Black Clover,” “Overlord” and “Assassination Classroom.” New anime releases coming this autumn include “That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime,” “SSSS Gridman” and the final season of “Fairy Tail.”

Customers who subscribe to FunimationNow will also soon be getting access to new shows with English subtitles the day after they air in Japan, with English dubbed versions available a couple of weeks later, according to Amazon Prime Video U.K.

“It’s great that we can now offer U.K. Prime members access to popular anime shows with the addition of Sony’s FunimationNow on Prime Video Channels,” said Alex Green, European MD of channels and sport at Amazon Prime Video. “FunimationNow adds an incredible line up of anime to the wide selection of entertainment we offer customers on Prime Video in the U.K.”

“We are pleased to be working with Amazon to offer FunimationNow as part of their Prime Video Channels line-up,” said Gen Fukunaga, president and CEO at Funimation. “This will further expand our global footprint and enables us to bring the best in anime to many more fans in the U.K.”

FunimationNow joins more than 70 channels available on Prime Video Channels in the United Kingdom, including live and on-demand entertainment and sports, available as individual subscriptions.

Sony Pictures Television, United Nations Foundation Fete Indian Filmmaker

Sony Pictures Television, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, has announced Vinamra Pancharia, from India, as the global winner of the Picture This Festival for the Planet. Pancharia was feted July 31 following an all-day event with eight regional finalists on the Sony Pictures Studio Lot in Los Angeles.

Her winning film Tubelight will stream free in the United States on the ad-supported service Sony Crackle.

The Picture This Festival for the Planet was established “to celebrate everyday storytellers and change makers worldwide, showcasing the positive future they see for our planet through the art of film,” according to a Sony press release. Earlier this year, people from more than 70 countries were invited to submit videos between 1 minute and 8 minutes in length inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of global goals agreed upon by all 193 member states of the United Nations to end poverty, protect the planet and promote prosperity for all. The initiative was supported by SPT’s networks around the world.

Tubelight chronicles a homeless orphan’s dream of attending school. Despite not having the means, the boy sits outside a classroom window during the day and studies under a street light at night.

“Education is the foundation for building prosperity and health,” said Pancharia in a statement. “In Mumbai, at traffic signals, you find these kids selling books. They should be using them in the classroom. True progress is only possible when every child is in the classroom. It all boils down to education. With this film, I just want to create that call to change.”

As part of the Picture This Festival for the Planet, the eight short-film competition finalists were invited to the Sony lot for a day of networking and training. The day culminated with a screening of the regional finalists’ films at the Picture This Festival award ceremony, which was attended by film enthusiasts, Sony Pictures Entertainment executives, students, and representatives from the UN Foundation, United Nations, World Bank Group’s Connect4Climate, and other partners.

The other global finalists and short-films featured include Mark Lee (Malaysia, Mr. Garbage); Yatri Niehaus and Constantin Campean (Germany, Atlantis Real Estate); Daniel Mendoza (Mexico, Flying Home); Wally Tham (Singapore, Sayang Kalimantan); Francisco T. Navarro Ruescas (Spain,Huevos Ecologicos); Bethany Borg (United Kingdom, The Conductor); Carolyn Meub (United States, Why Do You Give?).

Regional finalists received airfare and accommodations for two nights in Los Angeles, along with a Sony RX0 Camera and a one year WeTransfer Plus account. The grand prize winner was honored with a Sony Alpha A9 camera and a SEL 2470Z lens.

“Through Picture This, we want to empower aspiring filmmakers to use their storytelling talents to inform audiences about the important issues we’re facing in today’s world, including the threat of global warming,” said John Rego, VP, sustainability, SPE, in a statement. “Thanks to Sony Pictures Television’s vast networks around the world and the UN Foundation, this initiative helped shine a light on these global goals that will make our planet a better place for all of us.”

The Picture This Festival for the Planet is the latest SPE project to bring awareness to the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2016, the United Nations and SPE launched Angry Birds for a Happy Planet, a global youth outreach campaign that leveraged online and social media platforms to encourage action to protect the planet and fight climate change. In 2017, supported by the cast of the Smurfs: The Lost Village, audiences were encouraged to join “Team Smurfs” for the “Small Smurfs Big Goals” campaign that inspired everyone to learn about and support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“Through the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has been called to action. Businesses, organizations, individuals, and governments each play a unique and integral role to meeting our shared challenges head-on,” said Elizabeth Cousens, Deputy CEO, United Nations Foundation, in a statement. “The UN Foundation applauds the creativity and vision of these filmmakers to use their art to inspire equally creative answers. Local solutions can and must drive global action across our sustainability goals.”

The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by philanthropic, corporate, government and individual donors.

The global judging panel for The Picture This Festival for the Planet consisted of celebrity advocates and industry leaders.

To see all eight films, go to www.sonypicturethis.com. To view the winning video on Sony Crackle, go to https://www.sonycrackle.com/picture-this.

Sony Seeking Fiscal Partner for Crackle

Sony Pictures Entertainment reportedly is looking for a fiscal partner to help expand Crackle.com, the ad-supported streaming video service it acquired in 2006 for $65 million.

In an employee email first reported by Deadline, Mike Hopkins, former CEO of Hulu and now chairman of Sony Pictures Television, said that the right minority partner could help “drive scale and position [Crackle] to be more competitive.”

“Crackle is a tremendously valuable asset for us, and with premium [ad-supported VOD] getting more and more traction as advertisers seek high value online advertising opportunities, we feel there is room for greater growth for our OTT business,” Hopkins wrote. “With the right partner – one that could bring additional content or users or leverage existing assets for advertising and promotion – we feel we can expand Crackle’s audience and significantly increase revenue.”

The streaming platform is recent years has moved into original programming to better compete against Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Roku’s ad-supported channel, among others.

Original forays included “The Art of More,” and “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” featuring Jerry Seinfeld playing hooky with various celebrities, including then-President Barack Obama. The series has since been acquired by Netflix.

Crackle just announced it will begin streaming the second season of original series, “Snatch,” starring Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint, who is also an executive producer of the 10-episode drama.

 

 

 

YouTube Red Original Series ‘Cobra Kai’ Bowing Premiere Episodes With ‘The Karate Kid’ Theatrical Screening

The 1984 box office hit The Karate Kid will have a one-day theatrical screening April 25 in 700 theaters nationwide to promote upcoming YouTube Red Original series “Cobra Kai.”

The new series from Sony Pictures Television debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival April 24 and begins streaming May 2 on YouTube Red.

A commercial success, the original movie spawned a franchise of memorabilia, three sequels, a television series, and a 2010 remake featuring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan.

Ralph Macchio, who played young high schooler Daniel Russo in the original Karate Kid (along with the late Pat Morita and William Zabka), returns as a family man operating a string of car dealerships. His life become intertwined with high school adversary Johnny Lawrence (Zabka), who seeks redemption reopening the famous Cobra Kai karate dojo.

“A beloved American classic, The Karate Kid film continues to be one of the most searched entertainment properties on YouTube,” Susanne Daniels, global head of original content at YouTube, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to recreate the world inside the dojo in this exciting new YouTube Red Original Series, featuring iconic cast members from the original film.”

Tickets for “Cobra Kai: Premiere Feat. The Karate Kid” can be purchased beginning Friday, March 23, at www.FathomEvents.com or participating theater box offices.