Monday, 29 October 2012

Event: Anime Industry panel at London's MCM Expo (October 2012)

Jerome Mazandarani (Manga Entertainment), Andrew Partridge (Kaze UK) and Tony Allen (MVM Entertainment) were present at MCM Expo yesterday to announce their newest acquisitions and answer some questions from the UK fan community. There have been some conflicting reports so this is a fairly detailed summary of what was said at their panel.

Tony ran through MVM's upcoming plans first of all. They'll be going quiet after the Rozen Maiden Ouvertüre release in November as they deliberately avoid putting titles out in December; there's too much competition from Hollywood during the holiday season. Then, MVM will be releasing Needless part one in January followed by part two in February. Canaan will be coming out in February as well, straight to a complete collection. In March we'll get Dream Eater Merry and the first part of Shakugan No Shana season two. Tony noted that he'll be judging the viability of the third season based on preorders for the second as there's pressure for him to pick that up and the first season did well for MVM. April will see the release of Ga-Rei: Zero in a complete collection.

The schedule thereafter is not ready yet, but other titles MVM is planning to release in 2013 include Bodacious Space Pirates, Mayo Chiki, Majikoi: Oh! Samurai Girls and Kids On The Slope. Jerome interrupted to add that this was the English title for Sakamichi No Apollon, a series he had wanted. They joked about an e-mail Jerome had sent to Tony when he heard MVM had been the ones to pick it up. Reference was made to there being a few more titles in the pipeline which Tony said he couldn't announce until the signatures were on the contracts. In addition to their anime schedule, MVM have some live action titles planned including their first limited theatrical release for one, so they have a busy 2013 ahead of them already.

Next, Andrew of Kaze told the audience what to expect from them. As Kaze is a French company, they work with Manga to distribute in the UK which means that Jerome occasionally broke in to add some extra details about the releases.

The new Berserk movie, catchily titled Berserk Golden Age Arc I: Egg of the King, will be coming out on Christmas Eve on Blu-ray and DVD. There will be a special edition with a leather-bound book-style case and a 'quite interesting' booklet inside. Persona 4 is coming too spread across three DVD/BD combo sets. For the first quarter of 2013, we can expect the fourth Bleach movie, Hell Verse, in February followed by full season sets for Code Geass on Blu-ray. The expected price for the two BD sets (one set per season) is £39.99. Andrew commented that the DVDs for Code Geass which were originally released by Beez would be made available again too. Other titles in the pipeline are Un-Go, Mirai Nikki, Nura: Rise of the Yokai, Journey To Agartha and Mawaru Penguindrum, plus of course the next Berserk films when they are ready for home video. Andrew hopes that the second of these will appear around the start of the second quarter of 2013.

Kaze had brought one of the French Tiger & Bunny combo packs to Expo in order to show off the packaging, which will be the same in the UK. It comes with three Hero Cards - one each for Wild Tiger, Barnaby Brooks Jr. and Blue Rose - and three translated Monthly Hero booklets from the Japanese special edition packaging. The episodes themselves will be spread across two DVDs or one Blu-ray disc in a combo pack. Since there will be four sets in total, presumably the following sets will only include two Hero Cards and Monthly Hero booklets each to complete the collection. The design of the packaging was also very attractive, incorporating the character illustrations from the Japanese special editions along with a slipcase with one of the standard edition artworks on the front. This release has obviously had a lot of care and hard work put into it.

Jerome took over once the announcements were finished, and summarised the plans for Bleach. Bleach season 10 is apparently quite a short one, so it will be spread across two 10-11 episode DVD sets. The first will be released in February or March with the second coming later in Spring. In Summer, a complete collection will follow. There should be more Bleach later in 2013.

He said that they'd had a lot of questions about the packaging used for Bleach complete collections and took a moment to explain it: there are actually two versions of each set. They regard the first run as a special edition, with four discs in slimline Amaray cases with the original Japanese box art and an outer cardboard sleeve. This version is limited to approximately 3000 units. Once the special edition has sold, it's followed by a standard edition packaged in a 'brick' DVD case. I had absolutely no idea that this was how things were done, and indeed I'd seen the question asked online before by irate fans who didn't understand why their boxes didn't match. It's useful to know.

The final Kaze title that was discussed was Bakuman. They have the first two seasons but their release will most likely be DVD-only if France doesn't opt to dub it; if the dub is produced, Kaze can add English subtitles to the Blu-ray disc and distribute it in the UK as well. If France doesn't dub the show it will be very tough to sell a sub-only Blu-ray for this particular title and they'll have to evaluate the options carefully. For the benefit of anyone in the audience who had not been aware of the problems with the US release, they gave a brief summary: Bakuman's situation is unusual as Media Blasters dubbed and released one DVD volume in America then became unable to finance the dub any longer in today's difficult sales climate, eventually suspending their release entirely to renegotiate with the Japanese licensor. Because their release has stalled with the English dub incomplete, Kaze's hands are tied.

As Andrew and Jerome had overlapped quite a lot during Kaze's announcements, the transition to discussing Manga's own licenses was very smooth. Jerome had already revealed most of their upcoming plans in yesterday's live Manga podcast session at Expo. He recapped, adding some extra details when possible.

It was obvious that there was quite a lot of excitement about the acquisition of Wolf Children (Ookami Kodomo No Ame To Yuki). Jerome added that it would be coming on Blu-ray and DVD next year along with a special trilogy pack comprising Wolf Children, Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki Wo Kakeru Shoujo). This would be aimed at newcomers to Hosoda Mamoru's work. They had come up with some ideas to make the release special, one of which was to try to include a Hosoda retrospective going back on his career. They didn't reveal their other big idea and cautioned us that none of these plans were finalised yet. It was obvious that Jerome and Andrew were very passionate about Hosoda's films and had done their homework, calling him a spiritual 'successor' to Miyazaki Hayao in the west and remarked that the Digimon film he'd worked on had done fantastically well, second only to Pokemon in the UK. It was also revealed that Manga had sold 70,000 copies of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in the UK since they first released it in 2008.

Next, Jerome went on to describe plans for the Hellsing Ultimate OVA series. Parts V through to VIII are being planned for a compiled release in double disc sets, on both Blu-ray and DVD. It's been four years since the first volume came out on DVD in the UK, so the first four parts are going to be rereleased at the same time on Blu-ray to allow viewers a chance to catch up properly. They're hoping to put the sets out in May, if materials can be ready in time. Other licenses which will be coming next year are Jormungand, starting in Spring with one set per series. Aria the Scarlet Ammo will be coming too, as will Guilty Crown. Manga would like to release Guilty Crown in two half-season sets, ideally with a Blu-ray version available too.

Perhaps more interesting than the licenses themselves, Manga and Kaze are expecting a significant reduction in Blu-ray production costs in January. They didn't say what the reason for this was (and Tony remained poker faced). I hope that this comes to pass; it will be even better if it's industry-wide rather than something as simple as a change in authoring houses.

Jerome was also very excited about the last of their licenses, the CLAMP/Production I.G collaboration Blood-C. They've acquired the Blood-C: The Last Dark movie too, boasting that it sold out two screenings at the recent Scotland Loves Anime film festival. Jerome said that he'd been trying to convince his boss to green light a steelbook edition when it's time for the movie to come out.

Once all of the announcements had been revealed, it was time for the panelists to field questions from the audience.

In response to being asked what happened to King Of Thorn, which had been announced by Manga back in 2011, Jerome responded that there had been two problems. First, Funimation had delayed the US edition which consequently delayed Manga's access to the English dub. That's all been taken care of now, but they still can't announce the UK release details until Sunrise sign the contract - and this is taking longer than expected. The problem is exacerbated because there's only one agent for all of Europe and the English-speaking territories, and of course they prioritise each region based on its importance; needless to say, resolving problems in the USA and France comes ahead of dealing with the UK. Manga are hoping for a May release provided that they can push the rights holders to agree all of the paperwork in time.

Tony chipped in to remark that this is exactly why he doesn't announce his titles until he has the signed contract in place, prompting some good-natured ribbing between the panelists.

The second question was simply asking what the panelists thought about there having been a lot of horror-themed anime series in the last few years. They rattled off some Manga titles such as Highschool Of The Dead, Princess Resurrection (Kaibutsu Oujo) and Corpse Princess (Shikabane Hime), categorising them more as fan service or action titles respectively with some horror trappings. Shiki was brought up as a genuinely chilling horror anime, with Hellsing Ultimate and Blood-C being contenders. Andrew added that he prefers to steer clear of the horror genre when possible; it's rarely genuinely scary because it's difficult to do horror well.

Next, Andrew was asked about Kara No Kyoukai (Garden of Sinners) and Fate/Zero. They're on the Kaze France website so why doesn't Kaze release them in the UK? Andrew confirmed that Kaze doesn't actually have the UK rights for either because they're with Aniplex USA. The discussion took off when the other representatives joined in; Tony is very interested in Fate/Zero because MVM already has its predecessor Fate/Stay night (which has done "very well"), while Jerome has been pursuing the Unlimited Blade Works theatrical film and is "pretty sure it will come out eventually". They went on to explain that MVM prefers to avoid movies entirely. Feature films cost far more to license to cover the higher production budgets and the contracts tend to require a larger payment up front as well. In addition, there can be very expensive requirements, for example, to show the film theatrically in the UK on twenty or more screens.

Meanwhile, Manga like movies because they can expect to profit even with a Blu-ray release. The disc count is lower than that of a television series, cutting costs, and as a result the retail price can be lower, so they sell more copies and can reach out to a wider audience. Jerome personally likes the idea of Kara No Kyoukai. Although Aniplex USA hold the UK rights he thinks that they might be open to negotiating now the special edition Blu-ray set has sold out. The other barrier in the past was that the show has never been dubbed into English, but the sales figures for Blue Exorcist have made Jerome less paranoid about releasing titles without a dub. There's a caveat in that Blue Exorcist was a fresh title released right at the peak of its popularity (the manga volumes have been selling in the order of 30,000 copies in the UK!) while the audience for a niche series like Kara No Kyoukai will be much smaller. Other titles without a dub that Jerome would like to see Manga consider are Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari.

The next question was straightforward: will there be a DVD release of the second seasons of Gundam 00 and Fairy Tail? Manga Entertainment is distributing Fairy Tail on behalf of Funimation who hold the UK rights, so as Funimation have licensed the second season and movie already the series should be in safe hands once the dub and contracts are all in place. There probably won't be any release dates to announce until next Expo, though there should be a season one box set in early 2013 too. Gundam 00 is a little less straightforward in that it has become extremely scarce following Beez's disappearance and due to the importance of the Gundam series to the Bandai Group in Japan, the negotiations require a lot of care. We were told that while it's not impossible that it will reappear in 2013, we should "watch this space" for further news.

Code Geass' release dates were the subject of the following question. It was confirmed that the dates are still to be finalised, however there will be a gap of approximately five weeks between the two seasons so fans won't be flooded.

There was a brief pause in the Q&A during which Jerome described how he felt when he heard that MVM had licensed Bodacious Space Pirates as "gutted". As a consolation, he picked up Cat Planet Cuties (Asobi Ni Iku Yo!) - which it turned out Tony had really wanted for MVM as well. It was amusing to hear the representatives scrambling for the hottest titles, adding a human element to the licensing game.

The questions resumed with a desperately optimistic appeal for one of the companies to consider tokusatsu shows such as Kamen Rider or the Super Sentai Series. Due to their popularity in their home country, tokusatsu shows are actually more expensive to acquire than anime titles even though the audience here is probably much smaller. It's also an issue that they tend to have very high episode counts. They'd be a possibility on a service like Anime On Demand if a good deal could be struck to gauge the potential audience; alternatively, Jerome mused that Netflix might consider paying a higher than normal minimum guarantee to license that kind of content as an exclusive for their platform. He added that Netflix support subtitled content (unlike iTunes).

The next question was a little confusing as it was about whether Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (When They Cry) had ever had a UK release, but the audience member mistakenly thought Funimation had originally released it in the US (it was actually Geneon). This led to a rather complicated explanation by the panelists as they tried to explain the reasoning without openly naming any names themselves. The situation turned out to be fascinating; Funimation did not obtain the UK distribution rights when they rescued the series, so these rights are still held by Geneon in Japan today making a straightforward sublicense impossible. Australia's Siren Visual licensed it directly from Japan accordingly. However, Geneon is owned by a large studio which has complex compliance requirements, meaning that Manga Entertainment - also owned by a large media corporation - is unable to do business with Geneon as their parent companies are unwilling to reveal certain trade secrets to one another. It's important to note that these circumstances only affect Manga. Kaze and MVM are able to deal with Geneon in the normal way (and indeed they already do, as Tony interjected).

The panelists were then asked about the viability of dubbing anime here in the UK. It was agreed that although it has been done, for example in the case of Musashi, it's much more expensive to dub in this country than in the US. Musashi was a special case with its format as a documentary, needing significantly less dubbing than usual. Tony said that UK dubs also tended to sound a bit weird, citing the abysmal Urusei Yatsura dub that was made many years ago with a reasonably good cast. Jerome suggested that it might be entertaining to try a live dubbing session using famous British actors for charity one day.

Tiger & Bunny's UK release dates were the next topic of discussion. Andrew said that the first set would be released in February 2013 following a licensor request. He'd wanted the release to be much earlier in order to tie in with the release of the motion picture in September. Since the production schedule shifted, and the only way that they could release the show in France was spread across four volumes with the interesting Monthly Hero magazines, Kaze changed their plans for the UK and decided to match the French model in order to get the show out as quickly as possible. Jerome corrected Andrew to say that the release date was actually planned for 14th January 2013 and it should be possible to preorder as soon as next month.

A question for MVM followed, asking how Broken Blade had performed on Blu-ray and whether there were any more Blu-rays planned for their recently announced titles. Tony explained that Broken Blade was MVM's first Blu-ray release. As they don't have a Sony licence to manufacture the discs themselves, the only economical way that they can product Blu-rays is by relying on Madman in Australia to allow them to participate in one of their Australian print runs. The Blu-ray ended up performing better than Tony had expected. He balanced that by stating that it hasn't done well enough to convince him to go ahead with a lot more anime on Blu-ray just yet, but he isn't going to rule it out and he revealed that MVM deliberately plan ahead by acquiring the BD rights when they license new titles.

The main issue from MVM's perspective is whether they can join in with Australian print runs more often. If they could, they'd be able to consider more titles for a UK Blu-ray edition. The complications come from the BBFC's requirement that UK discs have the BBFC rating logo printed on the disc art. It's not a problem for them to arrange this with the Australian distributors, however, because there is no such regulation in their country (their ratings body only requires logos on the external packaging), MVM are seeing a number of cases where the Australian anime companies are simply repackaging the Funimation's American Blu-ray discs. This means no Australian print run takes place and at the same time, MVM are unable to use the Blu-ray discs from the US here because they won't be able to get the BBFC logo printed on them. Tony said that if it wasn't for the law preventing them from doing the same thing that Australia was they'd be able to release "loads" more Blu-rays here.

As for future Blu-ray plans, he mentioned being interested in trying a few of their catalogue titles which he knew would be receiving Australian print runs. He doesn't yet have Blu-ray rights for the oft-requested FLCL, so he's looking at that, and he'd love to get a Blu-ray set out for Berserk now that the new films have led to renewed interest in the series. The existing DVD box set is selling "phenomenally well" thanks to the films. With Broken Blade, the initial sales figures had been better than they'd expected but over time the DVD sales pulled ahead substantially. In spite of this, MVM had noticed that at Expo this weekend the demand for the Blu-ray version had been much higher. Different markets have different requirements.

Jerome observed that in other countries it's normal to price the BD higher than the DVD version to take into account the higher costs and lower sales. He also remarked that he found it strange that overseas, customers often pay full retail price whereas in the UK everyone tries to haggle (especially at events like Expo) and get a better deal, to which Tony added that prices in the US and Australia have gradually been creeping up. It helps the UK distributors greatly when anime retail prices in those two countries have been increasing by as much as $10 per volume. We were reminded that the prices in Japan are much higher than they are here and the only reason we're able to price our anime so low in comparison is because we're locked into region B.

Andrew had been saving the last Kaze announcement during the Q&A session, and now it was time to reveal it. They had acquired additional home video rights (including an option for Blu-ray) for the Anime On Demand series K.

The next fan wanted to know why the UK edition of Durarara!! was subtitled-only when there was a dub in the US. Andrew's answer was instant; nobody had told Beez about the plans for a dub until after production had started! Although they'd wanted to go back to it to add the dub track at a later date, this ended up being challenging in practice after Andrew left Beez and shortly afterwards they wound down their activities entirely. Andrew is personally a big fan of Durarara!!'s director and he thinks a future rerelease in the UK (with the dub) is fairly certain to happen. This isn't an announcement from him, merely an assurance that fans can be reasonably sure someone is going to release it here when it's possible.

Next up was a question about the possibility of Manga rereleasing some of its older films and OVA series on DVD or Blu-ray. Jerome said that in most cases he no longer knew who held the licenses; Andrew suggested that he might be able to draw up a list if required. Jerome acknowledged that there has been a lot of demand for movies such as Cyber City Oedo 808, Fist Of The North Star and Wicked City directed at Manga through social media channels. Unfortunately, picking up the rights to these older titles is just as expensive as picking up something new (he compared Wicked City to the popular newer titles Code Geass and Bleach). They'd be looking for an extremely good deal or a royalty split where possible and it's a complicated issue.

In contrast to the demands from older fans for classic material, the Expo crowd in particular is very young. The day before, Jerome had asked the audience who had seen Ninja Scroll before and he was shocked to see that half of the room hadn't experienced it. This generation of younger fans is mostly interested in the newest shows they've seen talked about online and through streaming, therefore the best option for Manga these days, in a commercial sense, is to work on reducing the time it takes for new series in Japan to start coming out in the UK.

It's not all bad news for lapsed licenses. Manga keep looking out for bestsellers from the past which haven't had a good DVD release over here before. There's also the possibility of exploring a steelbook edition for the UK in cases where HD masters become available from Japan. The audience were told that they shouldn't rule it out.

Jerome paused the questions momentarily to go through a few more of Manga's UK upcoming plans, first apologising for the recent setbacks such as the recall of faulty Panty And Stocking With Garterbelt discs (there are no faulty discs left in the channel, he asserted, so it was now safe to buy). They'd like to do a Blu-ray next year if all goes well now that Funimation have announced theirs and the licensor has relaxed their restriction on overseas BD releases. Manga have also had to delay Fractale, pushing it back to next year as they are co-authoring with Siren Visual, and the Blu-ray edition of Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa has suffered a similar fate caused by major problems with its masters.

Journey To Agartha (Hoshi Wo Ou Kodomo) will be coming out on 28th January 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD. Jerome tripped over the official English title of the film, Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, and they joked about how much space it would have taken up on the packaging if they'd used that difficult-to-remember title on their version. There will be a special edition for collectors including interviews, an art book and a nice box. In December 2012 we'll get Freezing on DVD, the aforementioned Berserk movie, the Gintama movie (Gintama: Shinyaku Benizakurahen) on DVD and Tales Of Vesperia: The First Strike on Blu-ray and DVD. Hackney Picture House will be running a special screening of Ninja Scroll on 16th November to celebrate the classic movie's rerelease ten days later. The screening is a great deal as you get the movie ticket, a special limited edition signed poster and the movie Blu-ray all for the £17 entrance fee. If I was a big Ninja Scroll fan I'd be very tempted to go!

Manga's other big announcement for Expo was that they are going to be distributing Redakai, a western trading card cartoon which airs on Cartoon Network and CITV. It will be receiving a budget seven episode DVD for £9.99, intended for sale in supermarkets to help widen Manga's reach in the entertainment distribution chain. They were pleased with the results when they did something similar for the Yu-Gi-Oh! movie a while ago.

The final batch of questions kicked off with a fan asking what kind of factors the UK studios look for when choosing a title for acquisition. Andrew said the main factor for him was whether or not he personally liked the series, though when a series he isn't keen on becomes very popular he's open to reconsidering his stance.  Jerome and Tony responded that they liked to ask Andrew for his impressions too. Other factors are whether the creators have been involved in any other hit series, the Japanese home video sales figures - broadcast figures tend to be fairly useless because the numbers are so low for late night anime. As it's possible that a huge hit in Japan can turn into a sales disaster in the UK, they have to tread carefully. Figures from the US release can sometimes help but it's surprisingly difficult to obtain a clear picture from America; Walmart has a 50% share of the market and doesn't report its sales charts. Jerome used Wolf Children as an example of a situation where he'd try to use comparative data to get a rough idea of what he could expect. Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time both did well, and even factoring the changes in market conditions since they were released he concluded that he could reasonably expect Wolf Children to be successful here. Andrew warned that when they look at the staff working on a show, they have to be careful to make sure that they're making an accurate comparison rather than being misled by some big names.

Tony's perspective was a little different, coming from MVM's background as both an anime licensor and an online anime shop. Because the online shop stocks imported merchandise from shows which aren't available here, he's able to see how much demand there is for unreleased series title by title based on how many wall scrolls and t-shirts they're selling. Also, because MVM focus on television anime, it's often possible to check how well the original manga series is selling to measure the demand. He also puts a lot of stock in input from UK fans and personally researches titles he's asked about to see how viable a UK release might be, with the main issues being availability of a an Australian release to make PAL conversion affordable and the existence of an English dub. Now that subtitled-only is less of a "taboo" in the UK, there's a possibility that they can be more flexible on the latter point in future.

Jerome had apparently mentioned liking the new anime series Btooom! in the live podcast the day before, as this was mentioned by an audience member keen on hearing which other new titles had appealed to the representatives. Andrew said he was very interested in Magi and that Viz Europe hadn't specifically included the UK in their recent acquisition announcement... but fans could draw their own conclusions from what had been said. Jerome said the Autumn schedule this year was a busy one; as well as Btooom!, which he was discussing with Sentai, he liked Girls Und Panzer. His colleagues at Manga weren't convinced by this choice at the moment. As he also liked Strike Witches and Cat Planet Cuties, there was some teasing about his taste from the other panelists.

An anecdote from MIPCOM, the annual global entertainment market, was recounted, describing how Japanese broadcasters make much more money selling formats such as Dragon's Den (which was originally the Japanese show Manee No Tora) and Ninja Warrior (originally Sasuke in Japan), rather than anime rights. Funimation often pick up anime rights covering all English-speaking territories, sublicensing to local distributors in areas where they are not directly active themselves. Funimation's simulcasting efforts have become a big part of their business recently, probably accounting for around 15% of their annual revenue via their own site and Hulu, Netflix, iTunes and YouTube. Discussions are ongoing about some of the bigger shows they've picked up.

When asked by an audience member about Funimation's imminent release of A Certain Magical Index (Toaru Majutsu No Index), Jerome responded that Funimation don't have the UK rights which are still with Geneon (he didn't mention Geneon by name, but in context it was obvious he was referring back to the Higurashi question). He asked for a show of hands to gauge interest in the spin-off series Toaru Kagaku No Railgun to which the response was underwhelming, going on to say that he'd like to pick it up but there's pressure to license the entire Index/Railgun saga at once, including the movie, without an option to break it up into its individual series. They were still looking at the viability so there's nothing to announce at the moment.

The final question was about Toradora, which is especially of interest to fans here as it recently had a release from Hanabee in Australia with a bonus episode not present on the US edition. A fan asked if it was being considered for the UK since an Australian release means there will be PAL masters available to reduce the costs here. Jerome confirmed that he knew about the Hanabee situation - they're a brand new distributor in Australia, led by a man who used to work for Siren Visual.

The overall response from the panelists to the possibility of Toradora was positive, and it was on this good note that the session finished.

My impressions.

All in all, it was a good panel. I felt a little traitorous sitting there with my bag of US import purchases, many of which overlapped directly with upcoming titles the reps were planning to release next year - however, not all of the announcements were useless to me. I'm one of the people who was stung buying the first volume of Media Blasters' frozen Bakuman release, so if Kaze can continue it here sub-only, and possibly even on Blu-ray, there'll be at least one happy customer.

The most surprising tidbit for this blogger was the discussion about movies versus television series. As a fan from the old days when TV series rarely came to the UK at all, I'd always believed that the preference for movies and high budget OVA acquisitions was universal. It's good to hear that MVM has made the television format work for them.

Hearing confirmation that Funimation tries to get all of the English-speaking distribution rights for their new titles is frustrating. Funimation don't simulcast to the UK at all, so this is the reason that several titles end up locked away from Crunchyroll and Anime On Demand who do! Funimation sometimes eventually add the missing titles to YouTube and allow us access (Haganai was the last series I was able to sample this way) but by that time it's months after the simulcast and the home video is on the horizon; streaming entire shows by that point feels like a waste of time. I'd like to see our distributors pushing Funimation to either release the streaming rights for countries outside the US to Anime On Demand or Crunchyroll, or to stream them to us themselves on their Funimation Elite Video Subscription service, because otherwise the current arrangement completely sucks for UK fans wanting to legally watch shows such as Kingdom, Kamisama Kiss, Code: Breaker, Jormungand, or the live action Moyashimon.

Presumably the only reason that this isn't happening is the difficulty in monetising streams to the UK. I'm happy to subscribe if an ad-based model isn't viable, and paying in US dollars won't be a problem. Come on, Funimation, you're leaving money on the table!

4 comments:

  1. FUNimation did put simulcasts on YouTube up until the season before Haganai and C3 - we could watch Aria TSA and Legendaey Legend on there here in the UK. They don't have UK rights for all titles - they only had streaming rights for Moyashimon and only for the US (it was part of their noitaminA/Fuji TV agreement)

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    1. Thank you for the extra information. I wonder why things have changed; Jerome was quite clear in stating that they generally pick up the rights for the whole of the English-speaking world these days (the Geneon titles mentioned in the panel being an exception, possibly along with current and future noitaminA content...?) so I'd expect them to be able to simulcast at least a few of the newer series to us if they wanted to.

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    2. I would have expected them to have UK rights to Oniai for this season, since it is from a similar stable to shows like Legendary Legend, Baka Test and Freezing etc. - but the only way to know for sure is if it is unlocked on YouTube.

      They don't always get global rights (or at least US, CA, UK, AU and ZA), but they try to. Not all companies will play ball (Gonzo for example always treated the US and UK as separate territories) and in some cases different Japanese companies have rights for different regions (Zetman is a known example for instance - https://twitter.com/animeondemand/status/187088155961344001)

      I've always assumed that the reason videos were unlocked on YouTube but not their own site (Hulu notwithstanding) was sourcing advertising, so I was hopeful that we would be allowed to purchase Elite subscriptions - but it did not come to pass.

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    3. It's a shame they haven't struck a deal with Anime On Demand (yet?) if they simply don't want to deal with managing UK customers on their Elite service.

      I did entertain the worry briefly that the UK distributors might have voiced concerns about things which encourage UK fans to import and asked Funimation to hold back on sharing with us - it's the only logical reason I can think of for some decisions such as letting us stream Hetalia on YouTube then deliberately locking the Hetalia 'Nice Package!' videos away on the same platform. Kaze obviously see the value of streaming, though, and Jerome seemed a lot more chilled out about everything at the Expo panel.

      I can't really argue the point in good faith to the UK companies myself; if it did turn out that Kingdom and the others were streamed to the UK, it probably wouldn't increase the chance of me specifically buying the local edition in most cases. Overseas limited editions and Blu-ray versions are too superior a proposition most of the time.

      At least if it went through AoD they'd be able to monetise my existence in a small way.

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