Sony Pictures Television shutting down Crackle
Online streaming service Crackle will cease to operate from tomorrow.
Crackle, the free video-on-demand service from Sony Pictures Television (SPT), will be shut down in the UK from tomorrow (1 April 2014).
SPT acquired Crackle back in 2006 when it was still known as Grouper, before relaunching it in the US as an online video sharing site in 2007.
The US rollout was followed in June 2010 by the introduction of local Crackle versions in Australia, Canada, Latin America and the UK.
It offers users free content – including original series, TV shows and films – via an advertising-funded model, but has struggled to amass a sizeable customer base in Britain due to competition from the likes of LoveFilm and Netflix.
Since arriving in the UK two years ago, Netflix has proved popular with consumers and had signed up an estimated 1.5m paying subscribers by last August, according to a report from Enders Analysis.
No formal statement about the closure of Crackle has been issued by SPT, but visitors to the website are being greeted with the message: "We'd like to thank all those who have supported and enjoyed Crackle UK. As of 1 April 2014, Crackle's UK service will no longer be operating."
Only last month, Sony made Crackle available on the PlayStation Vita, allowing users to stream its full library of movies, TV series and original programming on the go.
The closure is likely to fuel debate over the long-term sustainability of its business model. Relying on advertising for revenue means competing for viewers with both traditional TV channels and video sharing platforms such as YouTube.
Subscription-based services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are less reliant on the number of people watching their content – as long as they keep picking up enough subscribers.
The fact that the closure of Crackle comes without prior warning comes as something of a surprise, coming just weeks after general manager Eric Berger said: “This is a business we believe in and want to grow.
“There is a continual exploration of growth opportunities, some of them could involve outside financing but some of them may not,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Mr Berger also said it would not have made sense for Sony to distribute Seth Rogan and James Franco’s The Interview on Crackle, as rumours had suggested it might.
“While there was a lot of discussion in the marketplace about just putting it out there, the company decided to put it through the normal windows," he said.
“Ad-supported VOD (video on demand), which is where Crackle falls, is further down the line. So it’s very likely that it could be on Crackle, but in the appropriate window.
“Just because it's owned by the company doesn’t mean you would break the windows of distribution.”
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