In recent years, there is a big shift towards legal streaming. As mentioned in an earlier editorial, streaming sites like Crunchyroll makes anime more accessible. While there are drawbacks such as region restrictions and lack of offline viewing, it keeps most people from pirating anime. Legal streaming overall allows anime to become more mainstream than it did in the past. Of course, this spawned more competition such as Funimation, Daisuki and others.
However, in 2017, the state of streaming deteriorated. It’s obvious that Amazon and Netflix now wants the piece of the streaming pie. Earlier this year Amazon launched Anime Strike. Meanwhile, Netflix becomes a serious contender by taking more high-profile titles such as Little Witch Academia and Fate/Apocrypha. While competition is good as it prevents companies from being too lazy, it has a lot of drawbacks. As seen with the huge backlash towards Anime Strike, it can have negative impacts to the fandom as a whole. Moreover, it can derail the trend towards legal streaming and drive people back to piracy.
Just recently, I subscribed to Crunchyroll since I became tired of downloading releases. Obviously, being able to stream anime instantly is more convenient than using torrents. Given that Crunchyroll partnered up with Funimation and they will be offering offline viewing later this year, it’s a match made in heaven.
Sadly, it seems that things took a turn for the worse. It seems that Amazon is taking over everything as seen with their purchase of Whole Foods. Since they saw Crunchyroll’s success, they need to have a piece of the legal anime streaming pie.
With that, they launched Anime Strike, a channel on Amazon’s Prime Video service. The service cost five dollars a month, but there is a catch. You need an Amazon Prime subscription, which cost upwards to 159 dollars a year. Unless you already have Prime, Anime Strike is not accessible to most people, given the huge cost compared to others. Also, there is no way to view any shows provided by Anime Strike without subscribing. Aside from the small collection of titles, pricing is not the only reason people are angry.
Although cost is a huge factor, it’s not the only reason. In spring, Amazon took a good amount of high-profile shows for the spring and summer. Few notable examples are, Re:Creators, DanMachi Gaiden Sword Oratoria and Welcome to the Ballroom.
Since Anime Strike’s exclusives are behind a double paywall, there is a huge outcry in the fandom. It’s because most fans cannot watch them without ponying up a large fee because of the double pay wall. As a result, this impacts the coverage of their exclusives for people without Prime. In other words, the exclusive titles that Anime Strike take will fade into obscurity.
To make matters worse, those who subscribed to Anime Strike complained about the issues they experience while using it. The complaints range from late simulcast releases, region availability, missing subs, terrible interface. As seen from some of the tweets, the anime fandom is not happy with Anime Strike at all:
Canada's still waiting on new Princess Principal, while every other region already has access. pic.twitter.com/KU3MRDifx8— Jackson (@9clawtiger) July 23, 2017
Hey @animestrike could you just let me and anyone else who love to know where the subtitles to Hitorijime My Hero are?— Anigeddon (@anigeddon) July 23, 2017
Been up all day and no subtitles. I am so blessed to be paying for @animestrike— Shinkansen Henkei Robo Slinkalion Z 🐉 (@Slinkeeking) July 23, 2017
@animestrike— Chie 💗💛💙 (@C_BuckNERD) July 23, 2017
Just as a fyi: your phone app makes browsing almost damn near impossible & it's extremely cumbersome. This isn't worth the $$$
On the other hand, Netflix is not innocent either. While they have anime titles on their service and don’t cost nearly as much as Anime Strike, there are flaws. Unlike Crunchyroll, Netflix does not simulcast any of their anime titles, but instead release them all at once. This is not good since people who want to watch the latest episodes of their anime legally now. They miss out on discussing these titles on forums, social media, and blogs. As a result, Netflix’s unwillingness to embrace simulcast will drive viewers to piracy so they can watch the episodes now.
To me, I think Amazon and Netflix does not understand the anime fandom. The fandom for the most part is used to releases made within hours after the original airing. Aside from the double paywall issue with Anime Strike, Amazon is basically locking away their exclusive shows. This will obviously drive people to piracy, which will ultimately hurt the industry.
If they want to do it properly, Netflix should simulcast. As for Amazon, they should make Anime Strike a standalone service instead of putting it behind a double paywall. To me, I highly doubt they would do this as it would result in less money, thus deterring potential customers.
As a whole, I feel that the state of legal anime streaming deteriorated thanks to Anime Strike and Netflix taking more titles. If this continue with the mentioned companies not listening to the fandom, people will go back to piracy. They don’t want to wait several months or go through a double paywall for an inferior service.
Overall, this won’t be good for the anime industry since they will receive less revenue from ads and playbacks. In the end, providing a good service without double paywalls is the only way to deter people from watching illegally. As Valve’s Gabe Newell said, Piracy “is a service problem” and “if the product is region locked.” … and … “will come to your country (months) from (original) release” … “then the pirate’s service is more valuable.”
What are your feelings regarding the state of legal anime streaming? Do you think Amazon should give up or change their service? Feel free to share your thoughts.
- Amazon Strikes A Nerve – Anime Corps – focuses on why Anime Strike is bad and what people can do about it
- The Anime Streaming Nightmare – Moonlitasteria – Focusing on the issues with legal streaming due to increased competition
- Are Amazon and Netflix Killing Great Anime? – Mother’s Basement – A video that examines the negative effects of Amazon and Netflix exclusive anime. Also, it also take a look of the negative effects on discussion of and awareness of these titles.
Post Mortem aka It’s Dead Jim
After almost a whole year, it seems that the Amazon’s Anime Strike experiment haven’t gone as planned. On January 5, 2018, Amazon decided to shut down Anime Strike and make all the anime available for all Prime subscribers. I think this is bound to happen given that people don’t want to pay an additional $99 per year in top of $60 per year for Anime Strike. This means that people only $99 per year, which is $8.25 a month. While still slightly more expensive than Crunchyroll, Funimation and Hidive, it does give Netflix the run for its money. Not to mention, the shows will be available outside the United States, which is a good thing.
However, this makes me wonder about their ambitions to compete with other legal streaming sites that stream Anime. Like Netflix, Amazon is only simulcasting only 4 shows this season. I guess we have to wait and see.