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SPT’s Eric Berger: Digital Networks Are No ‘Add-On’

Despite the high-speed expansion of the digital marketplace, distributing digital content can be an afterthought for many networks. Sony Pictures Television’s Eric Berger knows better.

As senior VP of digital networks, Berger helped launch, SPT’s premium online video network, in 2008. Since then, Crackle has more than quadrupled its on-demand movie library, tripled its content streams, and in June opened its services to the U.K., Canada and Australia.

But Berger is no stranger to digital media success. He joined Sony in 2006 as VP of mobile entertainment, taking the company’s mobile gaming group from 17th place to fifth in the market. Before then, he was VP of strategic planning at Time Warner Inc., where he created video-on-demand channels with AOL and Time Warner Cable.

“I have always tried to drive toward ‘practical and implementable strategies’ rather than seemingly elegant approaches that look good on paper,” Berger says. “Central to this is connecting the dots between the digital opportunities and the core operations of an organization to find ways to make it strategic for everyone.”

Berger has streamlined this strategy with Crackle, merging traditional network programming with original content tailored to the voice of both the network and the online audience. “We tried not to have digital isolated in a vacuum,” he says. “We have been aggressive about carving out a space for us that is differentiated, so it is not just an aggregated service or next-day TV. It is a programmed, editorialized experience.”

By dropping the “add-on” approach to digital, Berger has built a digital content studio and distribution asset that he says “fits into the larger portfolio of Sony Pictures’ initiatives.”

According to Berger, digital is central to both multi-platform content distribution and content creation. “We’re unique in that we debut our digital properties online, but have gone back through traditional windows and further monetized them,” he says. Berger cites Web series The Bannen Way, which has been sold to international broadcast networks and hit U.S. TV Aug. 8.

With two new Crackle series in the works, Berger is just getting started. “Our goals are global expansion, continuing to build multiple platforms and continuing to build our free movie service,” he says. “We’re pleased with the start, but we’re just at the beginning.”