‘Retooled’ Crackle Plus Returns to NewFronts With New Owner and ‘Viewer First’ Focus

It broadens slate and shakes up ad formats

a white man and black man in a blue suit shaking hands in an ofiice
Going From Broke, a reality series about the national crisis of student loan debt, has become Crackle's most viewed show ever.

Key insights:

Five years ago, the free, ad-supported streaming service Crackle tried to make a splash by moving out of the NewFronts and becoming the first streamer to hold an upfront presentation instead. As then-general manager Eric Berger explained to Adweek at the time, “We want to send the message that we are a premium streaming TV network.”

A lot has changed since then, both in the industry and specifically at Crackle. In March 2019, Sony sold a majority stake in the platform to Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Inc. (CSSE), partnering on a new venture called Crackle Plus, which includes Crackle and other ad-based videos on demand (AVOD) streamers like Popcornflix. A year into the new venture, the platform is looking to send the same message to the industry as it did in 2015, but this time it is returning to the NewFronts to do so.

“It was the perfect time, we thought, to reconnect with the buying community and explain what we have been up to in the last 12 months and also our vision for the business, which has evolved quite a bit since the old days,” said Crackle Plus president Philippe Guelton. “We’ve worked really hard to retool the company.”

Guelton gave Adweek an exclusive early look at Crackle Plus’ NewFronts presentation, a 35-minute video that will stream on Monday afternoon. The company is touting its “viewer first” approach to advertisers, highlighted by an expanded, evolved programming slate and two new formats to improve the ad experience for users of the AVOD platform.

Crackle offers roughly half the ad load of linear TV—10 minutes per hour or seven and a half minutes per hour for users who log into the service—but the platform is preparing two new formats to continue to improve the ad experience, including one that will cut the ad load even more significantly.

Freeview, which Crackle created with TrueX, will allow viewers to engage with an interactive ad unit running at the beginning of a Crackle original or exclusive series and then watch the rest of the program ad-free. “That’s something we believe brands are going to be really excited about, where they can underwrite an ad-light experience for the consumer,” said Guelton.

And Jumbotron gives marketers access to the first autoplaying programming slot on Crackle’s homepage, which autoplays when viewers enter, where they can share branded content, trailers or a full episode of a sponsored show.

Update: During its presentation, Crackle Plus execs said that for the first agency partner to commit to Crackle Plus in this upfront, the company will donate 5% of that commitment back to promote a charity of that agency’s choice.

“We’ve worked really hard to retool the company.”
—Philippe Guelton, president, Crackle Plus

Since last year’s acquisition, CSSE has broadened the platform’s slate to include not only Crackle’s legacy “escapist” entertainment but also uplifting content “that inspires and empowers our users in their daily life,” said Guelton. “It couldn’t be more relevant in this day and age.”

During the pandemic, Crackle created the Homeschool Channel in just 30 days to help parents that needed educational content. The platform also rolled out new channels devoted to sports and DIY content and will now be adding verticals focused on music and pets.

Crackle and Popcornflix users currently have access to more than 10,000 movies and TV episodes, double the library size from a year ago. Crackle said its audience has grown 40% since it began rolling out two new originals or exclusives monthly, beginning last October.

Between AVOD services Crackle and Popcornflix and its ad partnerships with brands like Funimation, Crunchyroll and now also Jukin Media, Crackle Plus now reaches over 30 million active users, according to Guelton.

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