It’s obvious that the Novel Coronavirus has caused a lot of public events to become cancelled along with schools. Aside from people who have a job, but can’t telework, most will be at home. In other words, some or most of you would binge watch on anime while being stuck at home.
This of course brings the topic of anime streaming. In recent years, anime has become more accessible legally through legal streaming services like Crunchyroll, Funimation, and others. Not only that, you don’t have to spend $50-250 to buy the whole series on DVD or Blu-ray to watch it. Of course, we started to see Crunchyroll losing the lion share of the anime streaming as competition heated up.
If you recall, Amazon tried to jump in the fray with Anime Strike and Netflix doing its own thing. While competition is good as it doesn’t cause a service to become complacent. During that time, Crunchyroll became a bit lazy by not updating their video player and with poor video quality.
Once competition took hold, they eventually added an HTML5 player. It’s not without consequence. They lost a good amount of their catalog once Funnimation pulled out of the deal.
As expected, exclusive simulcasting is becoming an issue as people have to subscribe to the multiple services to watch the content they enjoy. Otherwise, he or she will miss out unless they subscribe. As they say, each subscription adds up in the end. This phenomenon is called subscription fatigue. While some bloggers have covered this concern, it’s time to go more in depth in it.
Back before competition blew up in 2017, it’s easy to watch anime. Crunchyroll and Funimation are the only two big players in legal streaming in North America. Sure, Netflix does have some anime, but some of the titles can be found on other services. For the most part, you only need to subscribe to two services.
With anime becoming popular again, it seems that legal anime streaming is becoming more fragmented and costly to access the same amount of content. Sure, the Crunchyroll and Funimation partnership was a good step in the right direction after Sentai Filmworks pulled their shows off the platform. Sadly, this partnership fell wasn’t meant to last.
Eventually, Sony bought Funimation in 2017. A year later after AT&T wanted in on the anime streaming pie. With that, they finally bought Otter Media, which is the parent company that owns Crunchyroll. As a result, Sony ended their partnership with Crunchyroll. Sure, Crunchyroll partnered with Hidive for their Vrv service, but Crunchyroll never really gained any of their titles or if so, it’s very few.
In other words, if you want to watch a title that is exclusive say on Hidive, you would have to subscribe to their service. This became an issue back when I was in limbo and looking for a job since I could only afford one service. While I can afford all three services now, those subscriptions no matter how you look at it adds up to a higher monthly cost.
Sure, these anime streaming services aren’t that expensive compared to something like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, etc. However, some, especially college students can probably afford only one or two subscription(s). Because of this, I had to miss out on some series or even turn to piracy, which I am not proud of. Moreover, there are also people who have capped internet, thus can’t take full advantage of video streaming. As a result, some may turn to obtaining media through illegal means to save on the data cap.
Also, there is Netflix. Despite simulcasting series in Japan, they still refuse to do the same overseas. They would rather release it all at once so people can binge watch it. I can understand the feeling people who watch anime on Netflix as one are missing out on the discussions and such. In other words, people turn to piracy due to their failures.
Of course, this phenomenon is not just happening with Anime, but with traditional streaming. Back in the early 2010s, Netflix was the only player. Sure, Hulu and Amazon jumped in, but for the most part, you only need one subscription. With the decline of cable television, other companies want a piece of the pie. Comcast, which bought Universal Studios and NBC is trying to create their own streaming service called Peacock. AT&T, who owns Warner Media including Crunchyroll, is planning to roll out their HBO Max service. Of course, Disney has their own service called Disney Plus. I think this is getting a bit too out of hand. In fact, the onslaught of new streaming services is causing some people to have subscription fatigue.
To follow various television series at the same time, you would have to subscribe to multiple services. This is the problem. While the cost of a subscription is relatively cheap, but each subscription adds up. Of course, it’s not streaming services that is guilty with this. There are music streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify and now, you have software subscriptions such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office 365. If you add the anime and your typical streaming video subscriptions, the monthly expenses explode.
Competition is good, but when it comes to exclusive media, it creates some kind of monopoly. In order to watch that content say on Netflix or Disney Plus, you would have to subscribe to the said service because they own the content. The same can be said to anime, but it’s different. Instead of the service owning the content, Crunchyroll, Funimation and Hidive only has the license to that content. That license gives them the right to stream the content to its users.
If the anime industry wants to reduce piracy, perhaps they should find better alternatives to exclusive simulcasting. I think delayed simulcasts such as one service streaming a title one week earlier compared to others is a better solution. At the same time, lower the initial costs of licensing the rights. Sure, they will get less money, but if Funimation, Hidive and Crunchyroll obtains the license at the same time, the content holder might get a bit more money. That way the hard-core anime fans can subscribe to multiple services to watch the show when it comes out. For others who don’t care can still watch the show a week later on their preferred service without subscribing to multiple services. To me, this can level the playing field and users can pick the service they prefer the most.
While anime has gotten a lot easier compared to the early 2010s while being cheaper, the fragmentation is becoming an issue. Sure, competition in theory is good, but instead of competition, it became more fragmented. As a result, some people turned to piracy simply because their preferred service isn’t streaming the title. Not only that, the cost of subscribing to more than 1 or 2 services can add up in the end.
Still, legal streaming platforms need to do more to fight piracy. Besides reducing regional restrictions, maybe content holders need to allow multiple platforms to license the title. I know licensing to stream a series can be expensive. If you have more than one doing it with reduced licensing costs, it can possibly raise them more money in the long run.
With that, how would you deal with the issue with anime streaming services being fragmented? Should exclusives go away for time-exclusive simulcasts? Also, do you subscribe to multiple services? Feel free to share them in the comments below.
Also, stay home, watch lots of anime, and be safe by practicing social distancing. Let’s flatten the curve and defeat the Novel Coronavirus.
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