New Crackle Owner Sets Leadership Team for Joint Venture With Sony Pictures Television

Crackle Plus president Philippe Guelton
Courtesy of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, the majority owner of the Crackle Plus free streaming-video joint venture with Sony Pictures Television, announced Philippe Guelton, a digital-media and publishing veteran, as president of the JV.

Guelton, who joined CSS Entertainment in January 2019, also will remain as executive VP of CSS Entertainment and president of VOD networks. The company also is bringing three former Sony Pictures Television execs who worked on Sony Crackle — Darren Olive, Jason Schaeffer and Tony Simon — to the new venture.

CSS Entertainment, a subsidiary of the company that owns the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book franchise, last month assumed control of Crackle as majority owner under its joint venture with Sony. The deal, first reported by Variety, closed May 14. Under the terms of the deal, CSS Entertainment issued Sony the right to purchase 4 million shares of Class A common stock of CSS Entertainment at various prices.

Sony Pictures Television and CSS Entertainment are calling the new venture “Crackle Plus.” They currently don’t own the rights to crackleplus.com but CSS Entertainment says that’s not an issue because that won’t be the consumer-facing brand.

The partners are hoping to build Crackle Plus into a major ad-supported VOD player. The JV encompasses the Crackle free, ad-supported VOD service and will consolidate operations with CSS Entertainment’s other ad-supported platforms including Popcornflix, Popcornflix Kids, Popcornflix Comedy, Frightpix, Espanolflix and Truli, as well as subscription VOD platform Pivotshare.

CSS Entertainment expects Crackle to more than double its overall revenue. In Q1 2019, Crackle would have represented more than 80% of CSS Entertainment’s revenue. According to CSS Entertainment’s pro-forma estimates, Crackle had revenue of $11 million and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $3.4 million for the period.

With the new appointment, Guelton will continue to report to Elana Sofko, COO of CSS Entertainment. Guelton will lead the Crackle Plus team, overseeing the merger of assets from CSS Entertainment and SPT into the new joint venture.

Prior to CSS Entertainment, Guelton was CEO of SheKnows Media, a female-focused digital-media company with over 70 million monthly unique users. (Penske Media Corp., publisher of Variety, acquired SheKnows last year.) Before that Guelton was president of Thrillist Media Group, executive VP and COO at HFM US and CEO of Hachette Fujingaho in Japan.

The three other Crackle Plus senior execs reporting to Guelton are: Darren Olive, EVP advertising sales, Jason Schaeffer, SVP of business development, marketing and business intelligence; and Tony Simon, SVP of content and operations.

Olive was formerly VP of national video sales for Sony Crackle, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, and anime service Funimation. Prior to that, he was national VP of digital and video advertising sales for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network and served in various sales leadership roles at Discovery, EA and Universal Music Group.

Schaeffer had served as VP of global revenue operations for Sony Crackle for the past six years. Prior to SPT, he worked at Disney Interactive and Dow Jones in business-development roles after starting his career at Merrill Lynch in its M&A department.

Simon had joined SPT in 2013 and was most recently VP of global network and content operations for Sony Crackle. He previously spent more than 15 years at Disney/ABC Networks, managing content operations for five linear networks and overseeing distribution for 26 VOD and digital partners.