Tell us a bit about your background and what led you to become President of Sales & Strategy for Crackle Connex.
I was at Discovery Networks running digital sales for the Oprah Winfrey Network and Oprah.com — and received a call from a recruiter at Sony Pictures Television. They were in the process of building out dedicated sales for a new “network.” Since they did not have a cable network at the time, they offered an alternative option in the form of Crackle.
Crackle was different from what viewers were watching and how they were watching. Sony launched the service with a mix of original shows from Sony Pictures Television (like Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee), but also some of the best Hollywood licensed movies and TV shows beyond Sony’s library.
Ultimately, the move to Crackle interested me in many ways. I loved the idea of getting onto the ground floor of connected television with a network that felt like “normal TV.” It wasn’t short-form content, but long-form storytelling and premium content. I was intrigued by mobile video and what the next iteration of video would and could be. All these factors made the move a no-brainer for me. This past April, I hit my 10-year anniversary with Crackle and haven’t looked back.
What has driven Crackle and Redbox’s recent success? How do you look to continue building on that success?
Crackle Connex is the name of our trade facing organization that brings together both our streaming properties and our OOH property led by Redbox. On the streaming side of the business, we now have a robust Advertising-Based Video on Demand (AVOD) and Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television (FAST) offered across three core networks (Crackle, Redbox and Chicken Soup For The Soul). We can reach every demographic/psychographic with a combination of free ad-supported movies and TV shows.
Mixed in with Redbox Premium Video on Demand (PVOD) and Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD), we really give the customer the freedom to choose the pathway they want, whether it’s fully free ad-supported content, or they want low cost rentals or purchases from us all through streaming.
From the Redbox perspective, we have nearly 31,000 kiosks in our network that are sitting inside or outside of major grocery chains, drug stores, and convenience stores. These kiosks provide a service for those who don’t subscribe to cable or Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) services that cost consumers more every month. Consumers have access to less choice as content is being juggled between services, as well as the value of these platforms continue to decrease with every increase in price. Instead, customers can come to us if they want to choose more cost-effective entertainment.
Recently, Netflix decided to shutter their DVD mailing service. It may seem odd that customers still want to watch DVDs, but there are millions of consumers who still want that path to entertainment if they can’t afford to go to the theaters or subscribe to the services needed to watch the entertainment that they want to see. Often, these consumers that interact with our kiosks are overlooked, but we can provide value to brands by giving them the space to reach them at retail.
With the slate of theatrical releases coming up this year, customers can afford to see these new releases by renting or buying them through our low-cost TVOD or the physical DVD side of the business. We just announced a record-setting week for TVOD transactions on Redbox, led by the release of The Super Mario Bros. Movie. This will really set us up for success this upcoming year.
In your own words, what makes Crackle/Redbox inventory stand out among others?
We have nearly 31,000 kiosks with 3,000 of those having high-definition video screens attached to them. The kiosks sit inside and outside of major retailers, right at the peak moments of the customer journey when they leave home. They’re going to the grocery store and can interact with the kiosk as they go in, or as they’re leaving and on to their next stop.
Regardless of when they interact with the kiosk — the exposure is point of sale — which gives our inventory a unique value that stands out among others.
Click the image above to learn more about what makes Redbox’s inventory so unique.
What do you see as some of the key opportunities for Crackle/Redbox in the OOH industry in the coming year? What are some challenges?
The banner year of theatrical releases is exciting for us on a few fronts. When the theaters struggled during COVID and studios either delayed or moved their movies to streaming, we admittedly struggled with them, but as we’ve seen in the last year, the excitement around big theatrical releases is back.
Look at Top Gun: Maverick for example. This movie’s release re-energized people to return to the movie theaters in large quantities. Studios regained the confidence to say that going to the theater is a viable business that they can work with; now, as those new releases get marketed, so do Redbox kiosks and our PVOD/TVOD business. We’re extremely excited for the major opportunities for us through 2023 and into 2024 and beyond.
Another opportunity for us is the relationship with our retail partners. How can we leverage in-store experiences to enhance that customer’s trip to the store? Whether it’s free/discounted movie nights or package deals that involve buying something from the store and getting something from Redbox, the data and purchase behavior is incredibly important for us to add value to that store trip or experience.
Some of the challenges right now involve the perception of Redbox. I think many people still see Redbox as this old red box sitting outside of my store that people don’t interact with much anymore; but I can assure you millions of people still do. We must convey that value to brands and the Geopath measurement release will play a vital role for us in that mission.
What is the most exciting aspect about becoming a member of Geopath? And what instigated the decision to become a member?
When Chicken Soup for the Soul acquired Redbox, they were really thinking about what value Redbox had for the customer, and subsequently, how could we leverage that value to brands? As we did our research, it became clear Geopath is the measurement tool necessary for OOH business.
Our video screens have been looked at as a one-to-one media right now, but we’re beginning to think about them more as a one-to-many offering in the future. What is the captive exposure? What sort of impression multipliers will we see? And so the need to move from one-to-one to one-to-many became a necessary goal for us.
Instead of us supporting our own claims with anecdotal data, we now can support our goals with trusted data from an accredited industry measurement body. Geopath is the stamp of approval we need to help legitimize our DOOH effort and cement the value of our inventory.
Lastly, the insights we’ve gained as a brand help us better target customers in certain geolocations and areas. We’ll potentially find things we’ll need to change about our content and offering, so our marketing is going to find value in Geopath’s insights as well.
What makes for a highly effective OOH campaign?
I think that it comes back to the intersection of entertainment and retail. I think that an effective OOH campaign and utilizing Redbox within it will take into account that we are an entertainment solution at the point of sale or at retail stores.
We can do sponsored giveaways for brands, or promotions that provide a purchase incentive. Buy a box of cookies and get a free movie for the night, or rent a movie and get a discount at the register for something else. There’s ample opportunity when you sit at the intersection of retail and entertainment. We want to give customers something more because it is what they would have done in the first place. Brands can take full value and add even more to the customer experience.
What’s the best OOH campaign you’ve ever seen? What made it stand out to you?
In terms of the best campaign that I’ve seen, I want to cite something we did recently with Teleflora around Mother’s Day. The best aspect of this — and really why we chose to acquire Redbox in the first place — was to merge physical / DOOH with streaming, and that is why Teleflora came to us with an idea about how to capitalize on the holiday.
Together, we settled on the idea of offering a 20% off discount code to Teleflora for anyone who transacted with Redbox through the streaming property or DVD via the kiosk. By simply being a Redbox customer, you get something back that is clearly timely and relevant to you.
Darren Olive is the president of sales & strategy for Crackle Connex, a division of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. In his role, Olive leads all sales (including direct and programmatic) and branded entertainment for its O&O streaming properties, including Crackle, Redbox, and Chicken Soup For The Soul, as well as a portfolio of premium streaming brands.
Olive also oversees the Redbox Digital Out of Home network, which contains a network of over 32,000 kiosks – allowing brands to extend their messaging inside and outside the home. He has over 20 years of advertising experience and was formerly Vice President of National Video Sales for Sony Crackle, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, and anime service FUNimation. He was also the National VP of Digital and Video Advertising Sales for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network and served in various sales leadership roles at Discovery Networks, Electronic Arts, and Universal Music Group.
Click the image above to view Crackle Connex’s presentation at NewFronts.