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The Future of Anime Distribution
Writen by Xero XIII
Posted on July 31, 2008 at 01:29:16 pm
As fans of anime and manga, we face a problem that fans of other media do not. Our media comes from overseas, and is not mass distributed in the U.S. and Europe. While there are particular stores to find anime and manga, it is often not so simple as driving a few blocks to pick up the latest Naruto DVD. But unlike years ago, when fans had to wait for their favorite series to be stocked at local stores and book chains, we are living in the internet age, where just about anything can be found with a search on Google. The introduction of fan subtitled anime and translated manga into popular culture in recent years has become a growing problem for the anime industry, particularly in countries foreign to Japan. “Fansubs” and “scanlations” are, in their entirety, illegal, as they violate the rights of both the original copyright holder, as well as those who have licensed a series in a foreign country. Since fansubs and scanlations allow fans to obtain the media for free, they have drawn money away from the anime industry. At AnimeExpo 2008, Vu Nyugen, who as the co-founder of handles business and development for the site, hosted a panel concerning how the anime industry can perhaps cope with fansubs, and minimize the damage that they are doing to the industry. Mr. Nyugen first gave an overview of what he referred to as the “Average ‘Joe’” consumer. At Crunchyroll, the average viewer is 22 years of age, with 90% of viewers between the age of 13 and 34, and 70% between the ages of 18 and 34. “Joe” is “young, in school, technologically savvy, socially influenced, and time rich”. The viewer has considerably more time than money, and his first source of entertainment is the internet. It is because of this that fansubs and scanlations are appealing to so many fans of anime, and the means of distribution is a perfect fit for our young “Joe”. Adding into this, anime isn’t as easy to obtain as most other forms of media, with television channels far and few between airing anime, and with only select anime titles being licensed and distributed outside of Japan. The average time for a popular anime series to reach the U.S. from its date of production is six to twelve months, and since Joe is so frequently on the internet hearing about these shows far before they reach the U.S., he is more anxious to see them. Also pointed out by Mr. Nyugen is that anime lacks the “try before you buy” factor that takes effect with U.S. television shows, as some anime are not seeing popular broadcast, or any airtime at all. Nyugen suggests that the legal digital distribution of anime will grow over the next few years. It will be cheaper for both the distributing company as well as for the fan to purchase, and it would provided wider availability to fans living in more out-of-reach locations. Recently hosted on Crunchyroll were two anime series produced by GONZO: The Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk (12 episodes), and Blassreiter (24 episodes). Both series were released online with English subtitles simultaneously with their television broadcasts. Keeping track of downloads through popular torrenting websites, both series had little downloads in comparison to other popular new series including Macross Frontier and Vampire Knight. Such releases could provide a means of minimizing the amount of illegal downloading occurring, while still allowing fans that are not living in Japan to get a look at anime before they come to the U.S. In relation to this, Nyugen outlines three forms of digital business models. The first is “Ad-supported streaming”, similar to sites like YouTube and Crunchyroll, which provide on demand low-quality videos, kept up through advertisements on the sites. The second would be “Subscription Steaming”, through which viewers can obtain high-quality videos on demand from streaming websites for a monthly subscription fee, a digital age HBO. The third would be a “Download to Own” service would provide excellent-quality video downloads without digital rights management, with a per-video fee, similar to iTunes. By making better use of the internet, Vu Nyugen suggests a reasonable method for the anime industry to reach new markets and put pressure against the piracy of anime and manga. By cheapening the costs of distributing anime, and making it available for free streaming with the permission of the rights holder or by creating pay-to-own download services, the anime industry will be able to reach a much wider audience, and satisfy the needs of fans who have difficulty obtaining anime through legal means.

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