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in Filmmaking
on Jul 16, 2007

In an effort to distinguish its site from the anything-goes mentality of YouTube, Sony Pictures is relaunching video-sharing site Grouper by renaming it Crackle, creating “themed channels” and adding a curatorial slant.

Says this story on MSNBC:

The website will offer a slate of themed channels for users to upload material. They include Wet Paint, an edgy animation channel, Shorts, highlighting short films, and High Wire, a stand-up comedy channel.

The best High Wire submissions can win a chance to perform at the well-known Improv comedy clubs, while Shorts uploaders could win a studio development deal and get the chance to pitch feature film ideas to Columbia Pictures executives.

Animation winners could see their work being theatrically released, making them eligible for Oscars.

Videos will be encoded and shown in higher than normal quality in widescreen format, with high-definition uploads also enabled.

“The evolution of online video will bring viewers more professionally produced material,” says Sean Carey, senior executive vice-president, Sony Pictures.

“Crackle will provide this next wave of creative talent a forum that will give them the exposure and recognition they seek and deserve.”

This article by Jacqui Cheng at Ars Electronica has more:

By what criteria will the Crackle team decide to connect Crackle’s semi-professional video producers with industry contacts? “We reward the best video creators with Crackle funding, promotion, syndication and even greater exposure to our large media partners,” Crackle cofounder Josh Felser said in a statement. Some of the rewards include cash prizes for winning contests in various channels of the site in addition to opportunities to pitch ideas directly to Sony Pictures and attend conferences. Other “prizes” for excelling in various Crackle channels include a Crackle Studios development deal, pitch opportunities with Columbia Pictures, pitch opportunities to IMPROV Comedy Lab, and flights to perform in different venues.

Why did Sony decide to rebrand Grouper as a talent-scouting web site? Felser told PaidContent’s Staci Kramer that attempting to make money on a user-generated video site that’s not named YouTube was too difficult. “We realized user-generated video is something everybody likes to watch, but it’s not a great business,” he said. “User-generated is dead to us. We are out of the user-generated video business.”

Over at IT Business Edge, however, Ken Hardin questions the value of Sony’s planned “fame partnerships” with content creators and imagines other models for viewer-submitted content by simply running the numbers:

Bloggers have long had the tools to monetize interest in their work via Google’s AdSense and similar programs. Leading bloggers have used this revenue channel to support pretty intensive resourcing — you know, like a business, except that they aren’t backed by large corporations. Or employed by them. Now, many of these blogs are involved in networks like Federated Media and giving traditional publishers fits.

How great would it be if a similar content channel developed that financially supported talented entertainers and filmmakers who are not wired into the corporate morass that gives us Transformers and License to Wed?

Not only could new talents get seen — and perhaps join the morass, if they so wish — such a market-driven outlet would also put pressure on traditional media to get more for its $200 million movie budgets. Go ahead and support video sharing, as long as an ad or other revenue generator accompanies it.

Here’s some plausible math for you: Assuming the rough equivalent of $10 in ad revenue per thousand page impressions (which is actually kind of low) and a 40 percent revenue share to the content creator, a weekly online sitcom that gets viewed 1 million times (here’s a video of a green laser pen that’s been viewed more than 1 million times since yesterday on YouTube, so it can happen) would generate $4,000 a week for the copyright holder. That’s not going to buy you a weekend house in Malibu, but it might well allow a talented group of people to keep plugging away in Des Moines.

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