Online streaming service: Crackle

Crackle
Link: http://www.crackle.com/

Introduction

Crackle (formerly known as Grouper) is one of the ads-funded online movie streaming websites. It is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Although it is free to watch movies on Crackle, all streaming videos are interrupted with commercial advertisements, similar to watching a film on broadcast television.

Analysis

  • # of free movies: around 200
    200 is small compared to other websites. However, as you can see later, those movies are relatively newer and more popular.
  • Uniqueness: 60%
    We define it as the percentage of movies not available as free on other sites. Because Crackle provides its content through a web syndication network, you can also find some of the movies on Crackle’s Youtube channel, etc. We still treat those movies as unique.
  • Vintage and quality distribution: see charts below
    We use the rating on IMDb as a measure of quality, and the votes on IMDb as a measure of popularity. The result will differ from data on other sites like RottenTomatoes, but it still provides good evaluation of the whole collection.

Year distribution (before 2000):
CrackleYearDistributionPre2000
Year distribution (after 2000):
CrackleYearDistributionPost2000
Votes distribution:
CrackleVoteDistribution
Rating distribution (with votes > 50):
CrackleRateDistribution

Summary

Crackle only provides a small number of movies. However, it has higher ratio of new and popular titles compared with other sites.

For example, there are 5 movies on Crackles each of which has more than 100,000 votes on IMDb while there are only 4 such free movies on Hulu (Note that Hulu has 2000 free movies in total). Also, most of the movies on Crackle are released after 1970 (> 98%).

Many of the popular movies on Crackle are only available in a short period of time (several popular movies will expire on 1/1/2013). Don’t forget to check its website regularly, so that you won’t miss any good movies.

Here is a list of some popular movies on Crackle:

Title Year IMDb Rating IMDb Votes Expire Dates
The Fifth Element 1997 7.6 205746 1/1/2013
21 2008 6.7 113482 1/1/2013
Step Brothers 2008 6.7 113319 1/1/2013
Identity 2003 7.3 103918
Layer Cake 2005 7.4 78720
Legends of the Fall 1994 7.3 65827 1/1/2013
Kung Fu Hustle 2005 7.7 63603
Unthinkable 2010 7.1 45055
Harry Brown 2010 7.3 44395
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story 2007 6.7 40095 3/1/2013

Online streaming service: Youtube

Youtube Movie
Link: http://www.youtube.com/movies

Introduction

Youtube is one of the largest video sharing website. It ranks 3rd on Alexa.

In January 2010, YouTube introduced an online film rentals service. It was later expanded to more than 6000 titles through partnership with various studios in May 2011.

Now in Youtube’s movie channels, there are more than 20000 titles and some of them are free (we will discuss its rental service in a different blog series for paid online streaming services).

There are two categories of free movies on Youtube,

  1. Videos uploaded by individuals.
    Youtube creates movie pages for videos uploaded by individuals. However, it doesn’t review the video for potential copyright infringement (see OCILLA), but relies on the copyright holder to issue a takedown notice. Three successful complaints for copyright infringement against a user account will result in the account and all of its uploaded videos being deleted (there are at least 400 free movies deleted because of this).
    The screenshot of one deleted movie:
    YoutubeCopyrightInfringement
  2. Movie uploaded by partner.
    Youtube has partnership program which allows media corporations including Hulu, Crackle and Viewster to offer some of their materials on Youtube.

Analysis

  • # of free movies: around 1500
    There are two channels on Youtube most of which are free movies: Indian Cinema (about 4000 movies) and African Cinema (previously known as Nigerian Cinema, about 1000 movies). We exclude them from the following analysis otherwise the result will be biased.
  • Uniqueness: 40%
    We define it as the percentage of movies not available as free on other sites. Many of the free movies on Youtube are also available on Hulu, Crackle or Internet Archive.
  • Vintage and quality distribution: see charts below
    We use the rating on IMDb as a measure of quality, and the votes on IMDb as a measure of popularity. The result will differ from data on other sites like RottenTomatoes, but it still provides good evaluation of the whole collection.

Year distribution (before 2000):
YoutubeYearDistributionPre2000

Year distribution (after 2000):
YoutubeYearDistributionPost2000

Votes distribution:
YoutubeVotesDistribution

Rating distribution (with votes > 50):
YoutubeRateDistribution

Summary

Youtube doesn’t provide free movies by itself, but you can find many free movies which are available on different sites in a central place.

One interesting thing is, media corporations sometimes leave the video on Youtube even though they remove it on their own sites. For example, Stealth is no longer available on Crackle, but you can still find the movie in Crackle’s channel on Youtube.

Sometimes you can even find both the paid version and the free version of the same movie on Youtube (for example, see ‘The Chase’ in the table below). So don’t forget to double check before you decide to rent or buy a movie on Youtube 🙂

Here is a list of some high rated movies which are unique on Youtube:

Title Year IMDb Rating
Sherlock Jr. 1924 8.2
Life in a Day 2011 7.7
The Chase 1966 7.2
The Buddy Holly Story 1978 7.1
Taking Sides 2003 7.0
Quatermass II: Enemy from Space 1957 7.1
Malcolm 1986 7.0
A Cab for Three 2003 7.0
Ramchand Pakistani 2008 7.2
Daughter from Danang 2002 7.6

Online streaming service: Internet Archive

Internet Archive
Link: http://archive.org/details/moviesandfilms

Introduction

Many public domain movies can be found on Internet Archive. Some movies were never copyrighted in the first place (sometimes by mistake, like Night of the Living Dead). But others may still be copyrighted.

Be careful that even though the site tries to remove inappropriate content (like Actor’s and Sin), some of the movies uploaded by users are not in public domain and thus illegal to download and redistribute. For example, Metropolis is copyrighted in US, while you can still find it on Internet Archive.

You can check an incomplete list of public domain movies in US here.

There is an interesting blog post about best movies on the site which is a good start. It also contains extensive discussion of public domain / copyright issues in the comments section.

Analysis

  • # of free movies: around 2000
    There are 8000+ movies on Internet Archive, but some of them are short films or duplicated. So we select 2000 full-length films from its database for analysis.
  • Uniqueness: 80%
    We define it as the percentage of movies not available as free on other sites.
  • Vintage and quality distribution: see charts below
    We use the rating on IMDb as a measure of quality, and the votes on IMDb as a measure of popularity. The result will differ from data on other sites like RottenTomatoes, but it still provides good evaluation of the whole collection.

Year distribution:
InternetArchiveYear

Votes distribution:
InternetArchiveVotes

Rating distribution (with votes > 50):
InternetArchiveRating

Rating distribution of popular movies (with votes > 5000):
InternetArchiveRatingPopular

Several observations from the charts:

  1. The year distribution concentrates on the period between 1930 and 1950 (about two thirds). Here is one possible explanation:
    In Copyright Act of 1909, the copyright had term of 28 years, and many movies entered public domain because they failed to renew. Later in Copyright Act of 1976, the term was extended to either 75 years or life of author plus 50 years. Then Copyright Renewal Act of 1992 removed the requirement for renewal at all. So it takes much longer for the copyright of a movie to expire now.
    Also, because of the new term, many movie studios restore the copyright of some old movies which were in public domain before. One example is Metropolis we mentioned above.
  2. One interesting thing is rate distribution. Although the distribution of all movies are common (with rating 6.x as the peak), the ratings of popular titles are much higher, and many of them are classic ones.
    For example, Bicycle Thieves won Honorary Awards (which is later known as ‘Best Foreign Language Film’) from the Academy. There are also several movies in IMDb Top 250.

Here is a list of some high rated movies:

Title Year IMDb Rating
M 1931 8.5
Bicycle Thieves 1949 8.4
The General 1927 8.3
The Kid 1921 8.3
Diabolique 1955 8.3
Man with a Movie Camera 1929 8.3
Anatomy of a Murder 1959 8.1
Battleship Potemkin 1925 8.1
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 1921 8.1
The Lady Vanishes 1938 8.1
My Man Godfrey 1936 8.1
Stairway to Heaven 1946 8.1
Greed 1924 8.1
Night of the Living Dead 1968 8
Nosferatu 1922 8
Charade 1963 8
His Girl Friday 1940 8
Great Expectations 1947 8
The 39 Steps 1935 7.9
Freaks 1932 7.9

Summary

Internet Archive is a good source of public domain movies which can be downloaded (while other streaming sites explicitly disallow download in their user agreements due to license limitation) and it has many classic movies with high quality.

Online streaming service: A quick look at free movie sites

Free movies (especially those shared via P2P network) are usually considered as piracy movies. And movie studios are now more and more aggressive in protecting their copyrights, like sending copyrights infringement letters to individuals with the help from ISPs.

However, it is not always the case. We’d like to use this blog series to give a snap view of free but legit movies.

In a nutshell, there are two types of free and legit movies.

  1. Ads-funded movies
    Some movie sites can buy licenses from studios, and then rely on in-movie advertisements or subscription fee to make money. The license fee paid to movie studios can be really expensive. For example, the expenses of adding new contents to Netflix’s streaming library soars from 64 million in 2009 to 2.3 billion in 2011. In the following posts, we use a special term for these ads-funded movies – ‘Free with ads’.
  2. Public domain movies
    Public domain movies are those whose intellectual property rights have expired, been forfeited, or are inapplicable. These works are available for public use. They can be downloaded and redistributed for free.

Here is a short list of movie sites which provide free online movie streaming service:

Site Name Type Free movies count
Internet Archive Public domain movies About 8000, some are short films
Youtube Free / from other sites About 2000 (exclude Indian films and African films). Other sites like Crackle, Viewster also upload movies to Youtube.
Hulu Free with ads About 2500
Crackle Free with ads About 200, some are well-known movies.
Popcornflix Free with ads About 500, many are independent films.
SnagFilms Free About 1000, most are document films.
Viewster Free with ads About 1000

We will have more detailed analysis on these sites in upcoming posts.