The idea that online video watching would be complementary to regular TV viewing has fallen by the wayside lately, as viewers seem to be watching more web videos at longer lengths. Even through the depths of the current recession, online video advertising was still growing at double digits. But it’s still very small relative to the wider online marketplace, not to mention broadcast and cable. As a result, a number of much-hyped online video sites from the major entertainment companies have had the plug pulled in the past few years as broadcasters like NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) were trying to get out in front of the “new TV” trend. But Sony (NYSE: SNE) has continued to support Crackle, despite its still fairly low presence on most people’s radar. And now, Sony is preparing to give the site a fuller presence on its Playstation Network, betting that online video and gaming will finally pay off.
Where sites like NBCU’s DotComedy and Time (NYSE: TWX) Warner’s SuperDeluxe weren’t given much more than an early life and death, Sony’s kept pushing Crackle, which offers a mix of full-length movies from its studio vaults, shortened episodes of classic TV series, and original clips. Although the site comes installed on Sony Bravia wifi-enabled TVs, that hasn’t raised the site’s profile much. But Sony execs and analysts say that could could change as it attempts to build up the Sony Playstation Network, the NYT reports.
Compared to its closest competitors, Crackle is still struggling. Last month, comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) shows that Crackle attracted roughly 4.1 million unique viewers who spent an average of 39.4 minutes of viewing time on the site, while IAC’s CollegeHumor, had more than double the audience, with 12.6 million uniques who watched an average of 16 minutes of video.
Nevertheless, Sony is continuing to spend around $1 million for each original webisode on Crackle. But it has certain advantages in terms of delivery, beyond the Bravia and its regular website. The content is generally aimed at young men, the core audience for the PS3. With increasing challenges not only from direct competitors like Nintendo and Microsoft’s Xbox aiming to broaden their entertainment scope, Sony is also facing competitions from gamers in all quarters. In an attempt to stay ahead, it’s been building out the Playstation Network as a video service that includes content and games on the PS3 console. While Crackle will likely require a lot more patience, time could be on Sony’s side if its content and its audience drive can match the growth of online video advertising.
— Online video upfront?: The most recent eMarketer estimates show that U.S. online video advertising spending will grow 48.1 percent this year, to $1.5 billion. While impressive, the number is a fraction of the roughly $25 million online ad marketplace. One thing online video doesn