Sony Pictures seeks new talent for video site

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Sony Pictures Entertainment said on Monday it is relaunching its online video site as a space for up-and-coming actors, directors and producers to post clips that could eventually be turned into films or TV shows.

Sony Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp., bought the Grouper online video site last August for $65 million and is now renaming it Crackle in an effort to reposition the site as a streaming entertainment network with channels on animation, horror and other genres.

Grouper was one of the pioneer online video-sharing sites alongside YouTube, which was acquired by Google Inc.

YouTube’s popularity has been spurred by user-generated content, or amateur home videos uploaded by ordinary people. These range from grainy footage of pets’ antics to better-produced clips, such as the popular lonelygirl15 series in which an actress plays a 15-year old girl posting her video diary.

The original Grouper also featured user-generated content (UGC), but Crackle will now carry more videos made by up-and-coming producers, animators and directors.

“We decided that the UGC space was not really a business,” said Grouper founder Josh Felser, who is co-president of the new Crackle. “The content is the same on every site and it’s really hard to monetize,” said Felser. “Advertisers don’t buy space alongside videos of people vomiting.”

Sony Pictures said it would help back the best ideas on Crackle to turn them into potential television shows or movies.

Crackle videos will also be available for sharing on social networking sites like News Corp.’s MySpace, Facebook and Friendster, and Sony devices such as the Sony PSP portable gaming device and Sony Vaio laptop computer.

Last October, Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company, sued Grouper for copyright infringement, saying it had allowed users to swap pirated versions of its artists’ videos.

Sony Pictures — which also owns movie and animation studios, as well as television assets — responded in November with a legal filing saying its video site was fully compliant with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
[Submitted by Imran Asad]

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