Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton tried to defend himself from an unexpected Presidential smackdown yesterday when he told CNN that the studio “would still like the public to see” The Interview after President Obama said that shelving the release was “a mistake.” With theater owners squeamish and another threat demanding that Sony essentially burn the film and bury the ashes, the options for a theatrical release seem limited.
To his credit, Lynton also told CNN that the studio was “considering” all options available to them when asked about VOD, but obviously nothing has come of that at this time and according to Lynton, a third-party is necessary:
“We don’t have that direct interface with the American public, so we need to go through an intermediary to do that.”
Here’s the thing, though: Sony does have an interface. Sony owns Crackle, which is a free streaming movie service that runs original programs like Chosen and Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
Running The Interview on Crackle would, essentially, forego the possibility of a big box office return or a gaudy rights fee from a digital streamer. So the negatives are obvious, but on the plus side, it would theoretically bring a lot of attention and ad revenue to that site.
Besides Crackle and the embrace of a free-to-view model, Sony also has the Playstation platform, which they will soon use to launch Powers, a high-profile comic book adaptation and TV series with episodes that will be available for sale on the Playstation Store.
Like Crackle, this probably isn’t ideal — in this case, you’re limiting your audience to people with a Playstation product — but it’s better than nothing and it could ultimately help Sony’s efforts to establish either Crackle or the Playstation as a destination for original material.
The question is: why hasn’t Lynton spoken publicly about the possibility of releasing The Interview on the Playstation or Crackle? Obviously the answer isn’t know, but I’m sure they have their reasons. I’m tempted to give them a wide berth when it comes to the process of getting this film out.
Sony has suffered embarrassment, a financial hit, public shaming from the President and the Hollywood community, and continuing threats of cyber-crime. Just a few days ago, they were full steam ahead on a standard release despite having to endure this attack from North Korean sponsored hackers. If they feel that a partnership with Netflix, Apple, Amazon, YouTube, or Yahoo makes the most sense for them financially, then that’s what they should pursue before opening up a dialogue about their internal options. My point is, those options appear to be there should Sony want to take that route and continue to fight this battle alone… or if they simply have no other choice because other VOD vendors don’t want to get involved.
This is a complicated, unprecedented, and fast-moving situation, so it’s hard to confidently gauge where it’s going to go next. The only thing that seems certain is that it isn’t going away anytime soon.