Sony picks up Web series Rocketboom

Rocketboom creator Andrew Baron eschewed the norm by going for a distribution deal rather than raising venture capital, which he says hasn't helped video start-ups anyway.

Sony Pictures Television has signed a distribution deal with pioneering Web series Rocketboom, which has been producing a quirky daily newscast since 2004.

Under the terms of the agreement--which reports pin in the seven figures--Sony will handle all distribution and ad sales, as well as use its Crackle.com player on the Rocketboom.com Web site. (Until this point, Rocketboom has used a YouTube embed on its home page.) It'll also see additional distribution on Sony's network, which includes the PlayStation 3 console.

Sony bought Crackle, then known as Grouper , back in 2006.

Created by entrepreneur Andrew Baron, Rocketboom rose to fame with actress Amanda Congdon as host, but she left the show on unfavorable terms in 2006 and has since struggled to find a new niche in online media. Congdon's replacement, Joanne Colan , is still at the helm.

In a post on his blog, Baron explained why he chose to seek a distributor (a rarity in the Web video world) rather than raising the money through a venture round: he didn't want to sell out. Mentioning venture-funded video start-ups like Revision3 and Next New Networks, he wrote, "While these networks have provided immense value for the growing transitioning space, they are all controlled now by venture capitalists which tend to have as their primary objective, a sale."

Baron added that it often hasn't helped the quality. "Aside from the hit shows which have spawned the networks, most of the other shows on these networks have not lived up to their predecessors, content-wise, and new shows are often canceled soon after they are launched." Indeed, Revision3 and Next New Networks have both seen new programs debut only to peter out after only a few episodes--something that a major TV network can handle, but which can be a serious wound for a video start-up.

"Instead of gaining capital to burn while continuing to build or seek an advertising solution, we now have one of the most prominent advertising solutions out there," Baron wrote, "along with increased distribution, a road map for expansion and a guarantee that I believe is an unprecedented deal for this space."

What he was saying, albeit obliquely, is that Rocketboom did need a leg up. As more and more early Web video shows have either faded away (Lonelygirl15 just ended its run, and The Burg's creators ended the project to collaborate on a new show backed by former Disney chief Michael Eisner) or acquired (Wallstrip was bought by CBS Interactive, and Revision3 now syndicates Wine Library and Epic Fu) remaining "indie" operations need to stay afloat. Sony can provide Rocketboom with better exposure as well as a more streamlined advertising operation.

Baron is no stranger to shaking things up, having catalyzed one of the blogosphere's most navel-gazing debates when he briefly put his Twitter account up for sale on eBay.

Disclaimer: Wallstrip parent company CBS Interactive also publishes CNET News.com.

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About the author

Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.

 

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