Crackle orders first scripted series

Sony-owned digital net follows Netflix, Hulu moves

Crackle is following Netflix and Hulu as the latest digital-only programmer venturing into long-form scripted series.

The Sony Pictures Entertainment-owned brand has greenlighted six episodes of a half-hour anthology series in the vein of “Creepshow” and “The Twilight Zone” examining unexplained phenomena. The working title is “The Unknown.”

The series’ executive producers are “Sons of Anarchy” producer Chris Collins and former LucasFilm development executive Steve Tzirlin. Sony will go into production on “Unknown” in March for release sometime later this year; no talent is attached yet.

The episode order brings Crackle into the increasingly crowded club of digital entertainment services. Netflix is kicking off a slate of scripted series next month beginning with “Lilyhammer” and continuing into next year with the adaptation of BBC drama “House of Cards” and the revival of Fox comedy “Arrested Development.” Last month, Hulu moved into scripted series as well with the comedy series “Battleground.”

While scripted is the most expensive form of programming, the payoff could come in generating greater interest from consumers and advertisers looking for differentiated content amid a sea of commoditized library fare on digital platforms.

Crackle signaled last May its intent to get into scripted series, ordering several scripts for consideration from the likes of the producers of the former CBS series “Ghost Whisperer.”

Since launching in 2007, Crackle has subsisted on a mix of short-form originals along with hundreds of TV series and movies from “Donnie Brasco” to “Seinfeld” episodes from the Sony library. Targeting young male viewers with ad-supported content, Crackle is available across a range of connected devices, most recently joining XBox Live in a voice-controlled format powered by Kinect.