At first Hollywood raced to make original Web programming. NBC Universal trumpeted a site called DotComedy; the Walt Disney Company created a digital studio called Stage 9; and Time Warner backed SuperDeluxe, another comedy site.
That was about three years ago. When substantial revenue failed to materialize quickly, the big entertainment companies hit the brakes, preferring to stick with what they knew best: the making and marketing of movies and television for traditional outlets.
There was a notable exception. Sony Pictures Entertainment has continued to pour money into Crackle.com, ordering Web shows that cost up to $1 million each. Why is Sony still betting so big? For one, it thinks it has hung around long enough to learn important lessons about consumer psychology when it comes to the Internet. But Sony also has a potential ace up its sleeve when it comes to funneling Crackle video to TV sets.