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Crackle NewFront Offers More Seinfeld, Joe Dirt 2, David Arquette

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Crackle could become the online network that Jerry Seinfeld built. Sony-owned Crackle held its 2013 NewFront today and the event had Jerry all over it. For one, it was held at Manhattan's Classic Car Club, which supplies the autos for Seinfeld's breakout online hit "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." Seinfeld contributed not one, but two videos to the presentation ("Keep your wallet open," he urged advertisers). Even the food was inspired by Seinfeld: bagels and lox, anyone?

If Crackle is fawning over "Comedians in Cars," it has good reason to: the series instantly became an online hit. No doubt AOL, which produces much more original online video than Crackle, would kill for the buzz this show gets. Little surprise that one of Crackle's announcements was that it renewed the show for a second season of 24 episodes. Seinfeld will be having coffee with David Letterman, Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock, Don Rickles, and more.

Crackle is best known for offering free, ad-supported TV shows and movies on-demand, with no membership required. Thanks to parent company Sony, it actually has content worth watching (no offense, Popcornflix.com). But it will double down on original content this year, hoping to compete with services like Netflix and Hulu.

Crackle general manager Eric Berger ran the show, joking about Crackle's ill-fated NASCAR support ("Stay tuned: next year we're sponsoring the Goodyear blimp.") and bragging about the site's recent Webby win (a People's Voice award for best entertainment channel).

Berger had plenty of original content to promote. Crackle is getting into feature films: Extractions, coming in September, is a thriller about a Black Ops mission gone wrong. It will star Danny Glover, Sean Astin, and Jon Foo (who was in attendance). Crackle is also creating a sequel to Joe Dirt starring, co-executive produced, and co-written by David Spade. Crackle didn't give a release date.

Actors David Arquette and Missi Pyle were on-hand to promote "Cleaners" an original series about female contract killers on the run from the FBI. The series also stars Emmanuelle Chriqui and Gina Gershon, and debuts in November.

Other upcoming shows include "Play it Forward" (top musicians play surprise sets on the street; Robert Downey Jr. hosts), and second seasons of "The Bannen Way" and "Chosen."

“Original products are becoming increasingly important," said Berger, noting that millennials don't care where their content comes from. James Smith, Crackle's senior vice president of digital media sales, emphasized that the site gets over a 90 percent completion rate for video ads.

"Welcome to the Crackle Digital Content NewFronts," Seinfeld said in a taped address. "They’re so new, I’ve never heard of them. But I’m happy to be here because, to me, NewFronts stands for new frontier, and that’s what we’re doing here." With a smart combination of curated premium content and original programing, Crackle could raise its profile dramatically in 2013.

Watch the below video to hear Berger talk about how Crackle has evolved, where it fits in with other VOD services, and what he says to critics of free, ad-supported video services.

Left to right: Jon Foo, Missi Pyle, and David Arquette at Crackle’s NewFront presentation. Photo: Anders Krusberg.

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