Sony’s under-the-radar video site Crackle—known for Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, if anything—has quietly built up a slate of guy-oriented scripted series. That includes, perhaps surprisingly, several serialized dramas such as The Bannen Way.
This Thursday, the Crackle series Chosen returns for its second go-round. The dark thriller stars Milo Ventimiglia (forever Gilmore Girls' Jess) as a dad forced to do terrible things to save his family. Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill) and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) have joined the show for Season 2.
VideoWatch recently caught up with the show’s creators, Ben Ketai and Ryan Lewis, to talk about the Web sleeper hit.
Adweek: Serialized scripted shows rarely work on the Web (most people watch House of Cards on TV, not computers). Why launch Chosen online, and why Crackle?
Ryan Lewis: I think one of the reasons we took it to Crackle in first place was that we saw an opening to get into the space in a way that people hadn’t seen. You can make a great show with a cinematic quality that people weren't seeing on a budget.
Ben Ketai: Credit to Crackle for pushing us to make something that you could see on TV and not "just a Web show." We think what you’re seeing now is this shift from things like Chosen being seen by consumers as Web shows versus being digital. I think companies like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu making a commitment to decent digital has really helped, and more people want to do that same thing. Viewers are ready make that leap. I drive around L.A. and see just as many billboards for Netflix and Amazon shows as TV shows and movies.
Lewis: What the world of Web video does is really allow for [early] discovery. Fans like that. Unlike with network TV, which pushes shows on you, you can get in on the ground floor and become an advocate. And then binge.
What is your budget like?
Ketai: Let’s just say it’s a fraction of a percentage of House of Cards' budget. But that’s our production company. We have more indie roots. We think we’re part of a generation of do-it-yourself filmmakers.
Lewis: We have to look at things from a lean-and-mean perspective. What we have on the page is what we’re going to shoot. That’s a great challenge. But there are lots of great actors out there who want to work on great projects.
Ketai: And there’s a great opportunity to work on a show that targets somewhat of an underserved genre in television. And AMC and FX have helped make dark popular.
Who is your target for a show like Chosen?
Ketai: Tweens to adult males, though we hear from a surprising number of women. We think they like Milo.
What was the reaction to Season 1 like?
Ketai: We were uncertain. There’s not an expectation in digital along the lines of "watch at 9 p.m. and it does great or gets canceled." But we were really thrilled by the response. It was pretty encouraging.
What did Sony tell you?
Ketai: They started talking about Season 2 the day it premiered. And the third is already going into production. The most encouraging thing was the retention numbers. We saw 50 percent of the audience make it to Episode 6.
Lewis: And they were watching at least 75 minutes in one sitting.
What’s up for Season 2?
Ketai: We had a general direction we wanted to go in. It’s a fast-evolving show, but we set up a world and rules for a world. We’re getting to explore mythology layers.
What about ads?
Lewis: You’ll see a big push from BMW this season. They were nice enough to let us play around with cars in the show. It fit perfectly. And you’ll see your typical Sony products.