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‘The Interview’ Will Stream Free on Sony’s Crackle

Add another digital outlet that’s signed on for “The Interview,” this one within the Sony Pictures Entertainment family: The studio’s Crackle unit announced that it will be the first ad-supported video service to stream the comedy.

Crackle did not say when the film would be available but is not expected to hit the service until 2016. While the Internet-video site would have seemed a logical place for Sony to take “The Interview,” the studio clearly sees opportunity to make more money in VOD, subscription VOD and homevideo windows before releasing it on a free, ad-supported service.

On Tuesday, Netflix announced a deal with Sony Pictures to offer “The Interview,” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, to U.S. and Canadian subscribers starting Jan. 24. Sony has set Feb. 17 for the “Freedom Edition” release of the film on DVD and Blu-ray.

“At Crackle, we always try to push the envelope when it comes to our own original programming and we’re happy to say the same for our licensed content,” said Eric Berger, executive VP of digital networks at Sony Pictures Television and g.m. of Crackle. “We are proud to be the first to distribute the film directly to consumers in the ad-supported window.”

According to Sony, “The Interview” generated more than $40 million in revenue via more than 5.8 million rentals and sales between its Dec. 24 digital release through Jan. 18 — but it’s still uncertain whether the studio will break even on the controversial movie. Its partners include digital distributors like Google Play, YouTube and iTunes as well as cable, satellite and telco TV providers.

The film is about two American TV journalists enlisted by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The communist regime, according to U.S. officials, retaliated against SPE in one of the worst cyber-attacks on a private company to date, resulting in the theft and disclosure of internal studio emails, documents and several unreleased movies.

Sony launched digital distribution of “The Interview” on Dec. 24, 2014, a day before it opened in limited theatrical release. That came after SPE had pulled back plans on its original broad U.S. release in movie theaters, following threats by the hackers who attacked the company.

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