Is Sony's Crackle video site attracting real talent?

You can find some great stuff -- and a lot of terrible stuff -- on the video site Sony says can make you a star.


Farhad Manjoo
July 16, 2007 11:57PM (UTC)

Sony wants to make you a star. The Internet has already proved that it can vault lone creators to fame and/or infamy -- just ask Mahir, the Numa Numa dude, Star Wars kid, and, in a different class altogether, the geniuses at Lonely Island -- but still, hitting it big remains a dodgy, imprecise affair. Crackle, a new video site put out today by Sony, aims to change that. By offering top-flight rewards for videos -- among other prizes, a pitch meeting with execs at Sony's Columbia Pictures or theatrical release (and the chance of an Oscar) for your animated movie -- the company says it can rocket brilliant people to the big time.

Crackle is the reincarnation of Grouper, a YouTube-like site that Sony bought for $65 million last year. The site was an also-ran in the "user-generated" video market, which is why Sony has decided to ditch it. The company is now leaning on what MBA-types might call "synergy." Sony owns many entertainment properties -- movie studios, record labels, a huge video game business -- and can thus offer attractive rewards to creators looking for more than YouTube fame.

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Crackle's not the first firm to offer such benefits to artists. The popular video site Revver gives creators a cut of the ad revenue it earns while showing their videos; the lab-coated men of Eepy Bird.com, who popularized the Mentos/Diet Coke fountain experiment, earned more than $30,000 from this deal.

This morning I browsed Crackle to see if anything there had the potential to match such success. Below, I've put down the best and the worst:

Brian Keith Dalton's "Mr. Deity" series is currently enjoying prime placement on the Crackle site. According to NewTeeVee, Sony found the series on YouTube and commissioned it for a run on Sony's network. It's funny -- though, as you'll see, it might only work in blue states.

This is the first episode; see here for more.


Crackle is also pushing animation. Patrick Smith's "Handshake" is a good example (the film, though, has been around for a while; Smith is no relation to Salon's aviation columnist):

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From Crackle: Handshake

But there's also a lot of junk on Crackle. Indeed, due to the differences in scale -- and Crackle's novelty -- you're much more likely to find great video on YouTube than on Crackle, where, in addition to the ones above, I saw several badly recorded stand-up comedy acts; a few videos of near-naked women advertising for adult sites; dance videos nowhere near as great as those found elsewhere; and this "Wha'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" clip from "Different Strokes" (don't you miss shows with catchphrases?)

Honestly, I'd take Obama Girl over a lot of that stuff.


Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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