Is Sony’s Crackle on the Brink of Becoming a Major OTT Player?

Though it might not be the first provider name that pops into your mind when you think about over-the-top (OTT) content, it appears as though Crackle might be on the precipice of becoming a strong force in the space.

Acquired by Sony for $65 million in 2006, Crackle is essentially an ad-supported OTT channel that showcases original programming, as well as films and television shows that appear to be culled from the deepest depths of Sony’s vault. (Just browse the catalog.)

Crackle’s most precious gem is probably Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” The premise of the show is quite simple: Seinfeld picks up fellow comedians in exotic cars, taking them somewhere to grab a cup of Java. The fifth season of the show, which was just renewed for five more years, is slated to premier this fall. It also recently won a Streamy Award, which is given to online video productions.

In addition to the Seinfeld offering, Crackle offers other original content, an area we expect to see the OTT provider focus on more in the coming months. Actor Jesse Bradford, who stars on Crackle’s “Sequestered,” said he wasn’t sure whether to accept the offer to star on an Internet-only television series, but he’s happy he said yes. “I had to get over my own preconceived notion of what is going on in the world,” Bradford said. “TV is becoming movies, the Internet is becoming TV, and film is becoming museum pieces that are hard to access.”

On its way to becoming a leader in the space, Crackle is focusing on increasing its original content offerings. Another of Crackle’s original series, “Cleaners,” starring David Arquette and Missi Pyle, aired its second season this summer. The OTT provider is also poised to offer a new game show, “Sports Jeopardy,” which will be hosted by former ESPN personality Dan Patrick. Its first episode is scheduled to air Sept. 24, 2014.

Sony’s Ready to Make a Move

With Crackle under its wing, Sony appears ready to make a major splash in the OTT market in the very near future. According to the Wall Street Journal, the entertainment company recently reached a deal with Viacom that gives Sony the ability to offer 22 of Viacom’s channels—including Nickelodeon and MTV—via the Internet. It appears as though Fox and Disney might also follow suit, letting Sony offer their channels as well.

Crackle is already available in 21 countries. The OTT provider seems to be gaining traction across the globe, and it seems very likely that Sony will use its Web-based television platform to offer Crackle as well.

If consumers are able to change the channel on whichever device they’re watching, moving from MTV to Crackle seamlessly, it’s safe to say that the line between TV as we know it and OTT content will all but disappear.

It appears that Sony’s latest effort isn’t just another attempt to expand its portfolio of offerings. Rather, the company seems to be trying to recreate the entire cable experience by delivering all content via the Internet. Sony’s Web-based TV service will even be accessible through PlayStation, something company executives hope will be attractive to younger customers.

Recent research indicates that the average cable subscriber gets 189 channels. Of those, only 17 are watched regularly. Assuming these OTT trends continue, it appears as though consumers might be able to pick and choose the channels they want sooner rather than later, instead of being forced into paying for large bundles of channels that go largely unwatched.