Crackle Plus is the leading ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) platform with its Crackle and Popcornflix VOD brands, and is well known by those of us who’ve toiled in the streaming video space. It’s one of the very first movers; both in showcasing the best in Hollywood theatricals and classic TV, as well as popular original and exclusive programming. Crackle balances its Sony Pictures pedigree with Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment’s innovative approach to creating, distributing, and monetizing its rapidly increasing catalog of superb video content.
Consumers have responded in droves, with over 30 million viewers tuning into its premium content every month. Crackle’s viewership and engagement growth was already high — to the tune of 32% year-over-year growth in time spent on the platform — but it has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic as viewers spend more time at home watching video content.
SpotX has been working with Crackle Plus to power its programmatic monetization for over-the-top (OTT) video, as well as help connect key buyers to its inventory through our Demand Facilitation team. Crackle Plus has always offered advertisers a unique opportunity to reach engaged audiences across a range of demographics, but that’s even more true now as it has developed new packages in trending content verticals to engage viewers and help advertisers reach highly desirable audience segments.
In the following interview, Darren Olive, EVP of National Advertising Sales & Strategy at Crackle Plus, speaks about how viewership trends have evolved over the last few months and the opportunity advertisers have to take advantage of new inventory to reach viewers.
Mike Laband: Tell us more about Crackle Plus and the content you offer viewers.
Darren Olive: We curate programming like a network, selecting titles we know our audiences will love. Some of our top programs include Crackle original content (docuseries like “Going From Broke” — produced by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment and Ashton Kutcher — and “On Point,” as well as feature films like “The Clearing”), AVOD exclusive movies (such as “Crown Vic” and “Grand Isle”), Hollywood blockbusters (“Die Hard,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding”), and classic TV series ( “Roseanne,” “3rd Rock from the Sun,” and “Hell’s Kitchen”).
Crackle is available on Amazon Fire TV, Roku TV and devices, Apple TV, most smart TVs (Samsung, LG, and VIZIO), gaming consoles (PS4 and Xbox One), iOS and Android mobile devices, and desktop at Crackle.com.
ML: How do you work with advertisers, and what programmatic capabilities do you offer?
DO: Crackle Plus offers advertisers access to a highly engaged audience through a wide range of inventory. Over 91% of Crackle Plus content is streamed in the living room on CTV devices. Plus, the Crackle Plus audience is unique and incremental to TV.
Our programmatic capabilities include targeting by genre and addressable deal ID, measurement that supports the top attribution solutions, and transparency with series and show-level reporting.
ML: What viewership trends have you noticed during COVID-19? Have viewers changed how they engage with Crackle Plus content?
DO: Due to COVID-19, more people are engaging with Crackle Plus content in novel ways. Viewership has never been higher — in April and May we saw an over 20% year-over-year increase in viewers on Crackle alone.
Unsurprisingly, sports and family content have spiked during COVID-19. Sports content, particularly “On Point,” accounted for 25% of all viewership in March as fans searched for content to fill the void left by the live sports hiatus. We also saw increases in action, comedy, and drama genres, as well more interest in classic TV shows as people turn to entertaining, feel-good content.
ML: What steps are you taking to adapt to these new consumer viewing habits and set yourself up for continued success in the future?
DO: As a result of changing viewership trends during COVID-19, we are unlocking content, moving up premiere dates for original content originally slated for later this year, and making everything easily discoverable. We are expanding content in trending verticals and even exploring new genres based on what viewers are looking for during this quarantine period. For instance, we introduced the Homeschool channel as a resource for parents with families studying from home. We’ve also created a dedicated sports channel with content such as “‘85: The Greatest Team in Football History,” “On Point,” and “Road to Race Day,” a very popular program that follows one of NASCAR’s most successful teams, Hendrick Motorsports.
We want to give our existing audiences new, premium content as they spend more time watching Crackle, while also introducing the growing number of new viewers to the best we have to offer. This creates a unique opportunity for advertisers to reach consumers in prime verticals, such as children’s content and sports.
ML: Why did you decide to partner with SpotX?
DO: We chose to work closely with SpotX because of its programmatic infrastructure, data enablement capabilities, and expert service. SpotX’s global Demand Facilitation team works with us to connect media buyers with our premium inventory that runs across the SpotX platform. SpotX is a highly valued partner helping us further increase the value of our premium long-form content.
Working together, we’re able to offer buyers brand-safe supply in both open and private marketplaces as well as access to exclusive video inventory. As OTT and CTV viewership grows, SpotX is also a great resource to advise buyers on how to purchase media efficiently, activate data, and reach target audiences.
ML: What’s in store for Crackle Plus for the remainder of 2020?
DO: We recently announced our partnership with Plex, where we are now offering our content to their audience through a branded experience on their free platform. Plex is the first of what will be many new distribution channels that Crackle Plus is leveraging to grow our reach, brand awareness, and ad revenue, all while appealing to the next generation of video consumers. We also recently announced Fubo and Flex Xfinity as additional distribution partners we will be releasing content on in the second half of 2020.
The other headline for Crackle is our resurgence as a top OTT programmer. At this year’s NewFronts, the benefits of being part of the early returns of the Chicken Soup for the Soul and Sony Pictures Entertainment were on display as we showcased our most exciting and diverse content offering in the history of Crackle.
Crackle not only doubled the amount of content available in the last 12 months, but it remains the only AVOD service with original programming such as “Anything is Possible: The Serge Ibaka Story,” “On Point,” “Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters,” “Road to Race Day, Yelawolf: A Slumerican Life,” “The Clearing,” the upcoming sci-fi series “Spides,” and the aforementioned “Going From Broke,” which just announced a second season. We also have a slate of projects that will be produced by our sister company, Landmark Studio Group. Needless to say, there’s a lot of excitement going on over at Crackle.
To learn more about Crackle Plus and see how its inventory will complement your buying strategies, contact [email protected].
Mike Laband is Senior Vice President of Platform at SpotX. Laband joined SpotX in May 2010 and is responsible for overseeing all US and Canadian publisher and media owner business development, platform services, advanced integrations, advanced TV initiatives, and audience development. His team is focused on cultivating relationships and partnerships with media owners to leverage the SpotX video platform for ad serving, programmatic yield optimization, and data enablement. Prior to his business development role, Mike oversaw SpotX’s publisher operations and brand safety, as well as led the rollout of platform tools and services to publisher partners. His extensive knowledge of SpotX’s internal ad operations, technology, and the video landscape enabled him to certify SpotX against the IAB Quality Assurance Guidelines in 2011. He also has participated in a number of the IAB’s mobile and desktop video working groups. Mike graduated from the University of Colorado, Leeds School of Business with an emphasis in marketing.