With Crackle’s new “always on” approach, the network has started to see itself as beyond a TV alternative and more like a TV network in itself. Per the initiative, the Sony Pictures Entertainment digital network will begin streaming programming on its website from the moment you click to it. Like a television, there will always be something playing when you “switch it on,” which you can watch while scrolling through the network’s other viewing options. This seems to bring together the best of both worlds in terms of TV and internet viewing, but it also begs a few questions.
First, does this mark the next, logical step in digital video entertainment? What does this mean for advertisers and viewers?
We caught up with James Smith, the head of digital sales at PlayStation and Crackle, after the Crackle Upfront to take a stab at these questions. From the way he refers to Crackle as being “on TV,” you can see what the studio thinks about the future of the video content environment.
How did Crackle arrive at this new, TV-like approach, and how will it look?
There’s two pieces to this. The first piece is really the product — because we’re a digital product, we can deliver a different experience. When you saw the ‘always on’ approach, we actually looked back at what happens in TV that makes sense. With TV, viewers want to come in and just plop on the couch and watch their favorite shows, so when they hit the remote control, something is always on. For a digital experience, mostly it takes a bunch of scrolling to find something to watch, but nothing’s playing when you ‘turn [those digital channels] on.’
That’s something we wanted to take from the TV experience. We’re going to develop the product that way, so when you pop it on, there’s always going to be something playing. The beauty is because it’s digital, we have a database behind it, and we can serve up content you may like. If you’ve been watching a bunch of comedies, next time you turn on the TV on Crackle, it’s going to be running comedies and potentially showing you other comedies you may want to watch. That’s the exciting part of taking the always on experience of TV and making it better because of digital.
Then the other side, the content side, is still the same. It’s just about making great, long-from content. Being a studio, were in a unique position to do that.
How are ads going to function in this environment? Will they play in a sort of linear way, too?
The ads will still be in kind of a very normal Crackle environment. What I mean by that is, we’re very focused on addressing the targeting, addressable matching…The bottom line is, we’re taking what happened on linear TV, and we’re using the benefits that we can offer from a digital experience. We’re able to identify our user, match the customers’ profiles of who we’re trying to reach, and make sure that ad hits that person. Now, our ad load is still less than traditional TV, so the experience in our opinion is a little bit better, but the targeting from an advertiser’s perspective is much more efficient. They’re paying for what they hit.
Crackle is very focused on the 18- to 34-year-old set. How is it targeting people outside of that range?
We’re on so many platforms — everywhere you need to be on TV. On the mobile side, we’re on iOS and an Android, so basically all tablets are covered, and all smartphones are covered. But we’re really a connected TV business. We’re about that big screen in the living room. If you’re viewing through Roku, or you’re viewing through an Apple TV or a PlayStation gaming console, the experience is all the same, but for us it’s really about making sure those ads hit the right people.
To answer your question, different platforms have different clusters of audience segments, so you may have more 18- to 34-year-olds on PlayStation and maybe some of the mobile phones, but on connected TVs and smart TVs, there are maybe more adults 18 to 49 years old. We have the ability through our data management platform to target users where they are. If you’ve got certain programming like “Supermansion,” which is definitely going be big with 18- to 34-year-olds, and we know PlayStation is [big with that demographic], we’ve got a big cluster of that audience there. We’re able to just put advertiser campaigns where they belong, and to us, it’s platform agnostic.
*Photo credited to David Harkey.