Aiming to step up its new media game, Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired worldwide, exclusive distribution rights to Rocketboom, one of the oldest news-oriented video blogs. Not much will change at the show for now, but Sony hopes that acquiring a successful show can bring some sizzle to its web-based video entertainment network, Crackle.
Rocketboom launched in October 2004 as a short vlog (video blog) that featured commentary on everything from mainstream news to Internet culture and anything else noteworthy. Distributed in a multitude of file formats and distributed by a range of channels, and via RSS, the show's ubiquitous presence and zippy format helped garner it a sizable audience of a few hundred thousand daily viewers. After the introduction of a new host and commercials in mid-2006, Andrew Baron, the show's producer, claimed that Rocketboom's audience had risen to 400,000 daily viewers, though BusinessWeek disputed that claim.
Setting aside traffic numbers, Sony's negotiations for exclusive distribution rights to Rocketboom marks a new chapter for the site as Internet video matures. It should also bring some eyeballs to Crackle, Sony's "multi-platform video entertainment network and studio." Originally known as Grouper, a user-generated content (UGC) competitor to YouTube, Sony acquired the company in 2006, ditched the UGC angle, and rebranded it as Crackle. With a new focus on professionally produced video and multiple audience-centric channels, Crackle has finally begun enjoying more positive traffic growth over the last six months, though numbers from a few stats-tracking services paint slightly different pictures. comScore says Crackle has risen from around 1 million unique monthly visitors in April 2008 to over 3 million in June, but in September 2007, a cofounder told VentureBeat that the site had 20 million uniques.
Regardless of Crackle's current traffic stats, Sony has high hopes for Crackle content syndication and the audience that Rocketboom can bring along with it. The Rocketboom distribution deal is said to be in the seven-figure range, and while Sony and Crackle never answered Ars Technica's requests for comment, Baron declined to give us an exact number. In addition to the vlog's current distribution formats and channels, Rocketboom will get integrated into the PS3, PSP, Sony BRAVIA televisions via BRAVIA Internet Video Link and, naturally, mobile partners. Sony will also take total control of Rocketboom's ad sales.
In a blog post on his personal site, Baron speaks about the changing new media landscape being a primary catalyst for this decision. "The hyperbole surrounding the free ability to podcast, videoblog and in general publish and distribute video to the world with the touch of a button is an old story now." Baron details Rocketboom's steady growth as an independently produced Internet video show, as well as adventures in advertising and syndication, then finishes on "the complete package" that Sony offers as the reason behind the partnership. Allowing Sony to take over distribution and ad sales will leave Baron to focus on Rocketboom content, which he maintains complete creative control over.
Sony's exclusive acquisition of Rocketboom distribution rights is one that may not pan out for some time. While Sony's gaining a decently sized audience for what is probably a small price and Rocketboom gets to remain Rocketboom, Crackle has yet to garner its own significant audience—let alone become profitable.