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What’s Wrong with

Posted by on December 30, 2013 reviewFounded in the early 2000s as “Grouper” the company streams movies, television shows, and some original programming over a wide variety of hardware platforms. Grouper was purchased by Sony Entertainment in 2007 and rebranded as Crackle after the purchase.

With Sony’s support, the ‘channel’ has access to a large library of video product from both the Sony and Columbia archives.

The service is free, supported by streaming “television-style” advertisements from Blue Chip advertisers, including Fed Ex, car companies, video game studios and more.

So what’s the problem? The service simply doesn’t work, with frequent crashes, video drop outs, no real search function, programs and commercials video drops while audio continues, and the need, very frequently, to have to start watching a program over and/or restarting the service.  The platform’s look and feel is different, and has different functionality on each hardware platform, making for further confusion.

The problems can only be due to one of two reasons, both of which are fundamentally flawed.

1) After over ten years in operation, the technical aspects of the software is still not perfected. This is inexcusable for a company with nearly worldwide distribution and such deep pockets. Assuming that Crackle does have competent technical staff on hand, one can only conclude that

2) The service (doesn’t) work intentionally, as a means to force users to watch commercials over and over again, for every time you restart a program, or try and start watching where you left off, you are required to watch the breaks again. If a stream stalls or drops out an average of 3-5x during each viewing experience, you are subjected to 5-10 ninety second breaks in a thirty minute television program, and even more during a movie.

If the problem is intentional, the situation is a clear demonstration of the growing problem that “new media” companies are being designed and run by personnel who never worked in “traditional” media, and lack the insights and understanding of the fundamental reasons of why people watch, as well as the basics of how to plan advertising buys and scheduling in order to maximize consumer response.

The problem with Crackle, and other services of this ilk, is that they are fond of selling overly-heavy saturation schedules for the ad spots, running them far too frequently per hour, and often, the same commercial two or more times in a row or in the same break.

The ultimate result of this misstep causes negative impressions, not positive, of the advertiser.  Especially if a spot falls into the “annoying” category, as in Michael Bolton appearing for Honda.  I’ve yet to find a peer that commercial series hasn’t alienated.

Streaming radio and television services would be well-served by hiring a few gray hairs from the broadcasting and/or advertising business.  Yes, the industries have changed to the point where they should no longer be called “radio” or “television”, but audio or video delivery services or platforms, yet the reasons people should choose  and stay with a service, and how they respond to advertising hasn’t changed, and the services need an education in this realm.



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