Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Acquires Full Ownership of Crackle Plus

Media company Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Dec. 15 announced that it has acquired full ownership stake in Crackle Plus from co-owner Sony Pictures Television. The transaction come about when Sony exercised its option from a 2019 agreement to obtain $40 million of preferred stock in Chicken Soup in exchange for its stake in Crackle Plus. For the next 30 days, Chicken Soup has the right to pay Sony cash in lieu of some or all of the preferred stock. The company has already determined that it will give Sony some portion in preferred stock.

Sony Pictures acquired the service formerly called Grouper in 2006  and renamed the ad-supported streaming site Crackle. It was changed to Sony Crackle in 2018. Sony sold a majority stake in Crackle to Chicken Soup in March 2019, which renamed it Crackle.

“Sony has been an incredible partner for [us] and this transaction is the natural next step in our relationship,” CEO William Rouhana Jr. said in a statement. “We welcome Sony as a large shareholder and look forward to continuing to work closely with them.”

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Since acquiring Crackle, the Chicken Soup management has reduced the network’s cost structure, ramped up ad sales on its owned and operated networks and differentiated the network among other AVOD offerings (i.e. The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, Tubi, Shout! Factory TV, etc.) through its complement of original and exclusive content. The Crackle Plus pipeline now comprises more than 10,800 movies and 22,000 television episodes available for its AVOD networks.

‘Antebellum’ Arrives on Disc; Complete ‘Game of Thrones’ Series Now Out on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Lionsgate’s  Antebellum, Paramount’s SpongeBob SquarePants: The SpongeBob Musical — Live on Stage! and the third season of “The Crown,” the Netflix historical series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, top the slate of new releases available for home viewers beginning Nov. 3.

Also newly available for purchase are 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray editions of V for Vendetta and the complete HBO series “Game of Thrones,” both from Warner Bros., and Lionsgate’s Kick-Ass.

The time-shifting horror drama Antebellum is now available on Blu-ray Disc and DVD. It was initially released by Lionsgate on premium VOD at $20 on Sept. 18. The film stars Janelle Monáe as a successful modern-day writer trapped during America’s slavery era.

Read an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Janelle Monáe here!

SpongeBob SquarePants: The SpongeBob Musical — Live on Stage!, from Nickelodeon, is making its DVD debut on Nov. 3 at $9.99. The disc edition includes an exclusive, extended sing-along version.

The Crown: The Complete Third Season is now out as a four-disc Blu-ray and DVD set from Sony Pictures.  The series is produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television for Netflix. Season 3 takes place between 1964 and 1977 and introduces Camilla Parker Bowles, who would later marry Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.

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V for Vendetta and Kick-Ass are the latest high-profile films to be released on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format, which is getting a renewed push by the big Hollywood movie studios as they continue to grapple with a lack of fresh theatrical product.

Also newly available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on Nov. 3 is Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection. The set, listed at $254.99, includes all 73 episodes, plus more than 15 hours of bonus content, and a digital copy of the episodes.

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Extras include material previously released in the “Game of Thrones” complete season sets and the 2019 complete series on standard Blu-ray, including a two-part reunion special hosted by Conan O’Brien; the documentary Game of Thrones: The Last Watch chronicling the making of the final season; Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of Seven Kingdoms; and audio commentaries, deleted and extended scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more.

A 4K “Game of Thrones” complete-series set also is available in an exclusive limited-edition version at Best Buy at $285.43, with all eight seasons featured in individual Steelbooks and housed in individually numbered metal cases.

A complete list of new disc and digital releases, compiled each week by the Media Play News market research team, can be found here.

Estrella Media Hires Ex-Sony Crackle Executive René Santaella

Estrella Media, a Spanish-language media company operating branded network and digital media platforms across U.S. Hispanic markets, Oct. 13 announced the appointment of industry veteran René Santaella as EVP of digital and streaming media.

Santaella, who was SVP, head of ad sales and operations at Sony Pictures Television Digital Networks, will be tasked with leading the digital transformation of Estrella Media, including building operations and generating new revenue initiatives. At Sony, Santaella helped build ad-supported VOD service Sony Crackle, which was subsequently rebranded Crackle Plus by new owner, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment.

Rene Santaella

In that capacity, Santaella also managed ad sales, operations and strategic initiatives and led the creation of a premium video network for advertisers targeting “connected gamers,” which included PlayStation Store, Funimation, Pluto TV and Crackle. Before Sony, Santaella was director of ad sales marketing for Disney Interactive, leading digital and cross-platform advertising and integrated marketing solutions across the company.

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“René has an amazing track record in working with some of the world’s largest media brands and transforming their businesses into digital leaders,” Estrella Media CEO Peter Markham said in a statement. “We could not be more pleased to have him plot the course of our continued transformation into a Hispanic digital leader across all platforms.”

 

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.