Crackle’s Parent Company Is Pushing Further Into Original Content

Landmark Studio Group will develop TV and films

Yellow background that says Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment
With the venture, CSS Entertainment wants to build out original programming for its AVOD services.
CSS Entertainment

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment (CSS Entertainment), the media company that last year acquired a majority stake in the free ad-supported streaming service Crackle, is forming a venture to help deepen its original content slate on the platform.

The new venture, Landmark Studio Group, will develop, produce and distribute television programming and films, CSS Entertainment announced today.

Landmark is a joint venture in partnership with David Ozer, an entertainment industry veteran who last served as president of IDW Entertainment, part of the independent comic publisher IDW Publishing. Cole Strategic Partners, an investment firm, is also funding the program. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The goal of creating Landmark, according to CSS Entertainment chairman and CEO Bill Rouhana, is to develop original programming that can attract viewers to Crackle and the other ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) services that are owned and operated by the company, including Popcornflix and Frightpix.

“We expect Landmark to provide valuable original content to Crackle and the other six AVOD networks that are part of our Crackle Plus subsidiary, as well as our other Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment divisions,” Rouhana said in a statement.

Landmark will also be able to sell its programming to any network or platform, which will serve as another revenue stream for the media company, Rouhana said.

Landmark, which Ozer will lead as chief executive officer, already has several television and film projects in development. They include scripted drama series The Fix, based on a book by Declan Hill about match-fixing in professional soccer; supernatural horror series Safehaven, based on a graphic novel and directed by Homeland director Brad Turner; and documentary series The History of Gangster Rap, based on a book by Soren Baker, who is producing the series.

Landmark has also identified stand-up comedy specials and animated series for development and production, the company said.

CSS Entertainment already has a number of original content offerings in the works, including the feel-good reality series Hidden Heroes that airs on CBS, the reality real estate show Vacation Rental Potential that airs on A&E Network’s FYI, and Going From Broke, a reality series about the student loan crisis that is slated to premiere on Crackle on Oct. 17.

The company’s strategy has been to hire independent producers to develop original programming for a fixed fee to control costs, according to a summer presentation to investors.

In recent years, CSS Entertainment has acquired a number of media companies and ad-supported streaming services to build out a network of AVOD services through which it can present a unified offering to advertisers. Those services are rolled up under the CSS Entertainment subsidiary Crackle Plus, which also includes the SVOD service Pivotshare. The company has said it plans to roll out smaller SVOD services that serve niche audiences.

In June, Rouhana told Adweek the company aimed to balance its investment in library content and original programming to appeal to a wide swath of viewers.

“We’ll start to introduce on Crackle and Popcornflix our own original programming, some special exclusive movies that you won’t be able to get elsewhere,” Rouhana said. “We’ll expand into unscripted and scripted programming originals that are exclusive to our networks … Gradually the networks will take on a life of their own.”

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