Crackle Shutting NorCal Office to Move in with Parent Sony

Crackle will be closing up its Sausalito, Calif.-based shop at the end of the month and moving down to Culver City to join its corporate parent, Sony Pictures Entertainment. The move comes more than two years after Sony acquired Crackle, then called Grouper. It is also being accompanied by the departure of most of Crackle’s staff, many of whom were given job offers but declined to move to Southern California.

“It’s really the next logical step in the asset’s evolution,” said Sean Carey, senior executive vice president of Sony Pictures Television. “When we acquired Grouper, it was really about a technological platform. It’s evolved from a technology company to a media network.”

Until very recently, Crackle employed some 35 people, according to Carey, and “half or less of that” will be moving to LA before the end of the month. Sony will be replacing most of those positions with local hires. In February of this year, the site employed 60 people and laid off eight of them as part of a general restructuring. At that time co-founders Josh Felser and Dave Samuel stopped being involved on a day-to-day basis, though they officially left the company more recently.

Grouper was indeed a technology company; it had built desktop applications for P2P sharing and personal video making back in the day, before scoring a $65 million acquisition that preceded YouTube’s sale to Google. Crackle, which launched last summer as a site for discovering the best amateur content on the web and bringing it to the attention of the execs at Sony, has evolved to be more about commissioned professional content. Carey said a key example of what’s to come is the site’s new series Dating Brad Garrett, which makes use of that actor’s relationship with Sony from its show ‘Til Death.

Crackle has consistently built traffic, but it’s not showing up on any top video site rankings just yet. We haven’t been blown away by its original efforts thus far.

Felser said he heartily approved of the move to be closer to Sony, saying it would hopefully set up the site for getting a bigger piece of its parent’s mindshare and assets. “It’s so crowded out there, you need every advantage you can possibly get — outside of being YouTube,” said Felser. “I wouldn’t dream of starting an Internet video site today unless it was highly, highly targeted. Those sites are doomed.”

(Felser himself has started a new video site as a side project — it’s called Blinky TV and its for kids — and he’s also raising a fund to make investments.)

For his part, Carey said Crackle will try to stand out based on its original content — which is arguably a niche in this day and age. “Movies and television shows on the Internet are almost a commodity at this point,” said Carey. “What we believe will differentiate our service is short-form original production with high-caliber content that you can only find — at least in the first instance — at, and secondly, building a much more robust experience around that content.”