Streaming Stumbles: How each major anime service can improve

2017 has been a tumultuous year for anime streaming with Amazon launching Anime Strike, Netflix more aggressively licensing big-name series, and more recently HiDive entering the fray. Meanwhile, Crunchyroll and Funimation’s partnership has continued to evolve with both becoming part of the VRV bundle service. Of course, this shift in the landscape of legal anime hasn’t come without its fair share of resistance. I’ll be recapping the points of contention in this article and detailing how they can be addressed to best serve the community. The article will go service-by-service in alphabetical order to retain fairness in representation (I want to stress that this is not meant to be a take-down of any of these services but rather a constructive discussion starter).

But first, I want to address two philosophies that are critical to the points I’ll be making:


The Consumer/Business/Artist dynamic

I believe first-and-foremost in advocating for consumer-friendly policies. Businesses will live or die based on their ability to fulfill the needs of their customers.

The concern of the consumer should be to look out for their own interests and safeguard themselves from business practices that don’t align with their interests (ethically). Businesses need to provide goods and services that the consumer deems worth paying for if they want to be successful. Their bottom line of making a profit shouldn’t be at the expense of consumer interests.

The other function businesses in entertainment industries must play is compensating the artists making the content they deliver. Crowd-funding models aside, they are the middle-man between the consumer’s money and the artist’s wallet. It’s not the responsibility of consumers to pay for the work of artists but rather for businesses to offer a product consumers deem worthy of their money so that artists can be paid. It’s true that consumers need to support artists by proxy of businesses in order for such art to be made, but by that same token, art funded by businesses only has as much value as the consumers are willing to pay for it; if the value proposition is not in line with what people want then it won’t get made. A harsh but true reality.

In short: businesses hold the entire burden to service the needs of the consumers so that they can fund art. They must fulfill both of these goals to survive.

 

Pirates will pay for the right service

One of the biggest misconceptions thrown around in discussions about legal content distribution is that pirates will pirate no matter what and thus their concerns shouldn’t be addressed. It’s exactly this stigmatism that keeps pirates sailing the high seas. The truth is that pirates will pay for the right service. The way the modern content distribution landscape works is that people take the path of least resistance. Businesses need to provide consumers with a legal alternative more appealing and convenient than the illegal option. Debates over the morality of piracy are moot here; this is the reality of how these businesses work.

It can and does happen that pirates are converted. One example is a friend of mine who pirated anime for the better part of a decade before realizing that Crunchyroll’s service had improved from its early days both in the quality of its player and its catalogue. The instant availability of the service provided a more convenient alternative than keeping up with and downloading individual episodes. He’s been subscribed to the service to this day.

To give another anecdote: before Apple launched Apple Music, I would pirate some of the music I listened to. While I gave artists money through concert tickets, I simply didn’t have the money to support my passion on an album-by-album level. While the advent of Spotify presented the option of streaming to me, the only way I would ever use a streaming service was if it integrated with the iTunes library I had built up over a decade, plenty of which I had paid for. Apple Music provided a solution to all my problems: I no longer had to pirate and all the music I could want was available instantly at my fingertips for $10/month, the price of a single album. Suffice to say, I was given an option better than piracy and I took it without hesitation.

There will of course be some who pirate habitually or because they otherwise can’t afford the content, but to write off everyone who pirates as someone who will never pay is an unhelpful and incorrect mindset. Many either don’t know about the legal alternatives available, would pay if they had the money or are waiting for the right service to fit their needs. These are people who should be listened to as they’re established fans that can be turned into paying customers.

As a clarification for this article: I am not endorsing or condoning piracy, but rather trying as best as possible to talk about it objectively as a thing that happens.

 

With that out of the way, let’s discuss the ways in which each anime streaming service can improve:


Anime Strike

Amazon’s Anime Strike has been the most controversial of anime streaming platforms in 2017. The service took the anime content available through Amazon Prime Video and moved it into a channel accessible for an additional fee. The service also saw Amazon more aggressively license anime beyond their 2016 deal to have exclusive access to content from the noitaminA programming block. What can Strike do to shred the stigma it’s garnered around its business model within the community?

 

The double paywall

Strike is available for $5/month… but only if you also pay into Prime for a culmulative $100/year. Effectively, this means that entry into Strike will set you back $160 annually, bordering on three times what its anime-specific competitors charge (a $13/month option is also available, although it ultimately comes out to the same price). This price is simply untenable for anyone but current Prime subscribers. For one, Strike’s selection of titles compared to its major competitor Crunchyroll is incredibly lackluster. Crunchyroll has had years to build up their catalogue so nobody is expecting Strike to match that out of the gate, but the much more limited selection paired with the extra $100 price tag means that this gap in value proposition is rendered impossible to ignore. Even with the premiere simulcast titles it’s been grabbing these past few seasons, Crunchyroll simply has more variety, and for a fraction of the overall cost (not to mention a significantly more extensive back catalogue).

And then there’s the issue that those who don’t have Prime most likely either don’t want it or can’t afford it. Both of these scenarios take the option of a Strike subscription off the table; Amazon is effectively losing money through its double paywall. Some will argue that it’s a smart business decision for Amazon to nearly triple up on the profits it earns from each new customer it does gain, but I believe the loss in customer goodwill and growth will ultimately hinder Strike in the long run.

There’s also a third, more fringe scenario that I wanted to note: those like myself who use a Prime service that allows members to give a limited number of other accounts access to their 2-day shipping benefits are also excluded from buying into Strike. It’s a byproduct of Amazon Video being cut out of those shared benefits, but alas it’s another scenario in which it really seems as if Amazon doesn’t want people’s money.

There’s no candy-coating it: this double paywall makes would-be customers turn tail fast. It locks away exclusive licenses behind a gate with a gold key. This needs to be fixed if Amazon is to convince the community at large to pay for its service.

 

No free option

This is a common flaw across multiple of the services here. One of the defining features of Crunchyroll is a free-with-ads option, allowing people to view new simulcast episodes a week after airing in 480p. This is critical to their business model because it combats piracy and builds a viewer base that may later choose to become paying customers. People have the option to try out the medium, get caught up on what’s new and–if they then decide they want a better viewing experience and more timely releases– pay for premium. This has been an incredibly successful venture for Crunchyroll. In a 2013 interview, CEO Kun Gao noted that fewer than ten percent of the service’s viewers were paying subscribers but that the ads subsidized the freeloaders. Ultimately, all parties involved win: the consumers get the content and the service/industry makes its money. It’s been proven to work.

The lack of a free option also means there is no way to legally watch their exclusive licenses if you aren’t paying up, leading people to can’t/don’t subscribe to the service no options other than pirating or not watching, neither of which are ideal. A free option benefits all parties involved and Amazon will need to find a way to implement one if it looks to compete at the same level as Crunchyroll. Availability and access are everything in this business. Unfortunately, the lack of a free option is a byproduct of their broader Video service and as such is something they’re unlikely to change for Strike alone unless they break it off into its own entity. I hope I’m proven wrong here.

 

An unappealing corporate face

Ask me to name you Crunchyroll employees and I could rattle a good few names off the top of my head. Ask me for Strike employees and I couldn’t name you one.

This may seem completely unimportant but having human faces that are directly interacting with users is critical in maintaining positive customer perception. One of the reasons Crunchyroll has fostered so much goodwill is because people like Miles and Victoria take an active role in community discussion hubs to hear feedback. Crunchyroll has a personality that people have come to love and thus they feel good about giving the service money. Strike’s failing in this regard hurts their customer retention and presence in the community. It also gives customers the impression that their complaints aren’t being heard as if they’re screaming at a brick wall.

A prime example of the current corporate face of Strike is exemplified through Lauren Orsini’s Forbes article about the service. In her interview with a PR representative, Lauren was told not to highlight any of their answers that would portray the company in a negative light (read: their non-answers to questions about customer concerns). Lauren went ahead and publicized these anyway in service of the community. While Strike has continued to have an open dialogue with Lauren despite this (definitely a good look considering this is grounds for blacklisting at some companies), it goes to show that Strike is more interested in playing straight-laced PR than addressing what people feel are problems with the service. This isn’t going to win over any customers.

 

Something Anime Strike gets right: offline viewing

In the interest of wanting to paint a more complete picture of each service, I’m going to highlight something that each does right. In Strike’s case, it’s the option to “download” episodes for offline viewing.

Not everyone is always connected to the internet when it’s most convenient for them to watch anime. For example, watching during a commute or on an airplane can be impossible save for torrenting. Strike gives customers a legal way to bring their anime on the go no matter their situation.

In a show of the strengths of competition, this feature triggered a reaction from Crunchyroll to announce a similar one for its own service, although its release it still impending.


Crunchyroll

Whereas Anime Strike and HiDive are newcomers to the scene, Crunchyroll has been around for over a decade. As such, the service has had the time to iron out many of its technical kinks, build community relationships and otherwise hit its stride. There’s no question in my mind that Crunchyroll is currently offering the best service on the market. Even so, that doesn’t put it above criticism. Here are the improvements that I think Crunchyroll can make to best service its customers.

Video quality

Earlier this year, drama erupted when customers noticed a sudden drop in the bitrate of Crunchyroll’s video encodes. The company addressed that the issue existed and vowed to restore the quality of their streams, something they immediately made good upon with changes in their encodes for any future simulcast episodes (they’ve yet to comment on the status of their catalogue titles at this time).

I’m not the right person to talk about the technical side of video streaming, nor do I want to comment on the convoluted drama surrounding that incident, but even before it happened I had noticed that Crunchyroll’s streaming quality was less than perfect. Compression artifacts were often present and lines were jagged/blurry (would this be called a lack of anti-aliasing here? Again, not my area of expertise). It’s not untenable by any means but it’s always been a noticeable way in which Crunchyroll wasn’t keeping up with its competition. Hopefully they’ll continue to improve on this front.

 

Better app development

A round of layoffs at Crunchyroll this past January (said in this anonymous Reddit post to have been in their engineering department, although given the anonymity at play I do not consider this a solid source) has left people I’ve spoken with worried that development of their service-specific apps has stalled. Instead, these same people allege that development efforts have been refocused to apps for parent company Ellation’s VRV bundle service. Whether or not this is true, I can vouch that their Playstation 3 and Playstation 4 apps are updated infrequently and problems can take over a year to be addressed.

One example of this that I encountered was a bug in the Playstation 4 app wherein rewinding would cause the player to cut off the end of an episode. It was an issue I brought up to the customer service team multiple times over the span of a year. After being told the issue would be fixed it still took months before any change was seen. I’ve also heard of other problems in the past such as encodes on the Playstation 4 app being of a lower quality than that available online, although I can’t confirm this myself.

The point here is that whenever Crunchyroll’s apps are brought up, it tends to be due to dissatisfaction. A faster turnaround on both response and repairs would go a long way.

 

Improvements that Crunchyroll is working on

These would-be criticisms are features that Crunchyroll is known to actively be developing. First is an HTML5 player to replace its current Flash player. People might have laughed when Apple launched the iPhone without Flash in 2007 but in the decade following we’ve seen the Flash platform slowly die off due to the rise of more stable options. It’s time for Crunchyroll’s Flash player to go as well. People who pay for Crunchyroll’s extra-premium offering have the opportunity to help them beta test the in-development HTML5 player and I hope it’s rolled out to all users sooner rather than later.

There’s also the aforementioned offline option that Crunchyroll announced in response to the functionality being integrated into Strike.

 

Something Crunchyroll gets right: A surfeit of catalogue titles, editorial content, etc.

I’m going to be honest here, despite the criticisms I levied against the service, Crunchyroll is on the whole doing a lot more right than they are wrong. I’ve already talked about its free option and community outreach, both of which have been critical in endearing people to the service. There’s also its commitment to providing feature/editorial articles and videos that help fans discover and appreciate series. That discovery mechanism is particularly helpful given the service’s rapidly expanding catalogue thanks to its partnership with Funimation. Ultimately, it’s my opinion that Crunchyroll is offering the best value-for-money of any anime service on the market. My only hope is that this doesn’t cause the company to rest on its laurels.


HiDive

HiDive is the newest competitor to the anime market, having launched less than a month ago. It comes into the playing field with innovations such as customizable subtitles and in-episode live chat. Without the established catalogue of Strike via Amazon Video, HiDive is coming into the game from square one. Given this, I don’t want to be too critical of its currently sparse offerings since the service needs time to come into its own. There are still a few other issues that the service should address, though.

 

No free option for exclusives

Premium exclusivity rears its head again in HiDive, but only to a limited extent. Most of the platform’s content is available for free with ads in standard definition, similar to Crunchyroll. The difference is that its simulcasts and a few other catalogue options are locked behind a paywall. As such, I have to raise the issue with this practice here as I have with other services. I stated earlier that premium exclusivity leaves no option other than piracy for non-subscribers and that Crunchyroll has proven an across-the-board free-with-ads option to be financially viable. Thus, locking exclusives behind a paywall is not necessarily the most business-savvy move.

This said, I do want to commend HiDive on otherwise employing a free-with-ads option, in some cases applied to content that hasn’t previously been made available for streaming. I just hope that they’ll take it one step further. Free-with-ads (with a week delay) on simulcasts keeps people coming back weekly which leads to retention of potential subscribers.

 

No stated permanent subscription price

HiDive is currently in a launch period wherein a subscription costs a discounted $3.99/month for an undisclosed amount of time. What people’s subscription will be bumped to after this period has yet to be announced. This is inherently not consumer-friendly. People need to know what their rolling subscription will charge them in future and when that change will take place. This is ultimately a minor complaint that will inevitably solve itself in time but the bigger point is that I want to encourage the company to have a more open relationship with its users going forward.

 

Limited-appeal simulcasts

Okay, I said I wouldn’t be too harsh on their content offerings but it needs to be said that their initial simulcasts options are lackluster. Battle Girl High School and Action Heroine Cheer Fruits are not exactly series setting the anime community on fire, and RIN-NE Season 3 is the third season in an already lengthy series, thus meaning its appeal is inherently limited. They’re going to need to do better than this if they want to compete with the other players in the business; Legends of the Galactic Heroes is great but consistently great simulcasts are the key to retaining customers.

 

Something HiDive gets right: licensing OVAs

One thing that sets HiDive’s content apart from the competition is its focus on licensing OVAs. Many of these never see the light of day overseas unless fansubbed (and you’ll be pirating them if you want to watch). For fans opposed to any piracy but want the full experience with their favorite shows, HiDive is opening that door. Hopefully they’ll continue to put an emphasis on this.

I also want to commend HiDive for locking down streaming rights for Legend of the Galactic Heroes. It’s a big deal for what many consider to be one of the all-time greatest anime to be available legally. Their rollout model of releasing three-to-four episodes a week exclusively to premium members is certainly frustrating, but ultimately this was an important license. Now if somebody could do the same for the oddly unlicensed Neon Genesis Evangelion


Netflix

Netflix needs no introduction. They’re the single biggest name in television/film streaming, period. They’ve always had a small yet solid selection of anime available on the service but have over the past few years have begun licensing exclusives. Netflix’s business model doesn’t always mesh with the wants of the community, though. Here are the changes the service must make to best suit the customers it looks to gain.

 

No simulcasting

If there’s one major sticking point people in the anime community have with Netflix, it’s that they don’t simulcast their licenses, instead opting to release them in bulk after they finish airing. This leads people who don’t want to wait for months no option but to pirate– including people who have access to a Netflix account. This became doubly bad with this year’s Little Witch Academia, their highest-profile exclusive license yet. Not only was the series held in limbo for six months while it aired but at this time they’ve only released the first cour while giving no release date for the second.

Simulcasting is an incredibly important aspect of the anime community. It’s where the discussion about many series is cultivated and keeps said discussion sustained over an extended period of time. If premium exclusivity hurts the discussion, not simulcasting at all decimates it. Little Witch Academia didn’t go unwatched but those who did watch it were left no option but to get it via illegal means. Those were views and potential subscribers that Netflix could have had. Additionally, a legal option could have made the series a huge splash hit beyond the group of people willing to pirate. Sure, it still has the chance to find its audience among legal streaming devotees but there is squandered potential regardless.

So, why does Netflix insist on this release model? It’s dictated by the way they release all their original-labeled content; it’s all about binge culture. It’s a model that makes sense for their self-produced series considering the way in which Western audiences consume content. Anime fans don’t necessarily share in these same habits, though. People want to experience series as they’re aired in Japan. It’s not like Netflix has never done weekly releases before. They’ve aired shows in regions outside of North America on a weekly basis, but here they’re fickle about their binge-focused business model. If Netflix wants their licenses to flourish then they’ll need to consider the consumption habits of audience they’re vying for.

 

No dialogue with community

And this leads into a problem Netflix shares with Strike: they don’t have anyone reaching out to the community to discuss the criticisms levied against them. It’s mostly the same scenario here and I won’t bore you by repeating myself. Netflix may be even less likely than Strike to make a change here because anime is only a relatively small part of their business. It feels unlikely that they’d uproot their business model for it, and such a feeling is exactly the problem in the first place; we’re left in the dark. For both Strike and Netflix, the tension caused by their business models could be greatly alleviated by having a public face addressing concerns.

 

Price vs. content (and the lack of a free option)

$10/month is asking a lot if all you’re interested in is anime content. While I feel it’s a fair price for the berth of content offered by the service, it’s also significantly more expensive than the other services I’ve mentioned. The majority of the anime content you’d be paying for is also available elsewhere. In fact, Netflix’s anime offerings have actually been dwindling over time. Many of the big series once available have since expired and little new has been added. If you’re only buying into Netflix for anime, you’re essentially only getting a small handful of content not available legally anywhere else.

Given that Netflix is unlikely to release an anime-only option, one answer to this problem would be expanding their back catalogue by licensing classic series that have gone unlicensed (Evangelion, Macross, & PreCure come to mind as three possibilities that would fulfill valuable niche needs). Right now, Netflix’s anime selections are simply not good enough to justify the price for them alone.

Let’s also throw “lack of a free option” into the mix here, although there is no world in which that changes because we’re talking about Netflix here. It’s a losing battle but I advocate for it nonetheless. I would be shocked to see them offer this for any of their content, let alone anime.

 

Something Netflix gets right: its dubs and image quality

As previously stated, I’m not one to watch dubs. However, I’ve heard on multiple occasions that the quality of Netflix’s dubs (which they produce for every exclusive license) is a cut above the rest. Similarly, Netflix’s image quality is top-notch. Both of these things are ways in which the service is giving value to the community, and hopefully they can do this in other areas where it counts to make themselves a worthwhile competitor in this market.


Concluding comments

Ultimately, competition is good in any market. What I’m scared of is that we’re at a breaking point as to how many services people are willing to pay for to access the full extent of content. Right now you’re looking at $22/month for access to all of the aforementioned series (plus $100/year for Amazon Prime which is also available as a monthly charge, and not taking into account whatever price HiDive will increase to). Bump that to $26/month if you’re also interested in Funimation’s library of dubs at which point VRV’s $10/month tag nets you access to both that and Crunchyroll.

I noted earlier that the best way to combat piracy is to offer a better service, and that people who pirate can and will be won over. However, every new service introduced to the scene spreads content thinner and thus makes it more expensive and less convenient to watch anime legally. This is not to endorse or condone piracy; it’s just the reality of the business. It feels as if we’re close to the tipping point and I’m worried that it could cause a crash of the anime streaming industry.

I honestly don’t feel the anime streaming landscape is too healthy right now which is why I felt this was an important article to write. There’s a lot of contention in the community about the way that content is being delivered and the cost of access. Content is becoming more fragmented than ever and something will need to give in order for things to move forward. It’s incumbent upon us to let the services know what we want out of them and also to reward them with our money when they fulfill those things.

Are there any issues or praises you feel I missed in this article, or do you disagree with points I made? Let’s talk about it in the comments. This is meant to be discussion, not a manifesto. And as always, thanks for reading!

30 thoughts on “Streaming Stumbles: How each major anime service can improve

      1. ive been getting a bit tired of the emotional reactions (understandable as they may be), so this was pretty refreshing. i think the piracy point you make is a good illustration of that. it’s easy to demonize pirates, but i agree that many would happily switch to legal means for a good service.

        i think you hit on pretty much all of the points that i would have thought of, but i wouldnt have considered hidive and probably wouldnt have thought to add a section on each company’s advantages. i might have added a bit on international availability as well, since i tend to talk with more europeans.

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  1. While I personally have not looked into a number of the services you mentioned in this article, I do strongly agree with the flaws and concerns you highlight. Some of the problems addressed, such as the double pay-wall, are enough to repel a large portion of potential consumers, and it’s baffling to see such a business practice being implemented here.

    It is true that simulcasting is very much a main-stay activity in conjunction with online discussion regarding anime in particular, and that it is unfortunate to see Netflix devotees miss out on those conversations as they patiently wait for their service to deliver. This, along with other services not having good communication with its consumers is indeed a problem that could very well cost them more in the long-run if they don’t address the issue sooner rather than later.

    I’m not at liberty to make any points of contention or knowledgeable enough in this regard to comment much further on the matter, aside from simply concurring with the points you’ve raised. My stance was already very much in-line with this practical mindset before, and that hasn’t changed.

    At least we have more options, and I’m glad to see someone comparing their pros and cons with the best of intentions to help craft ideas on how to improve their services so that the industry may thrive off of its healthier competition once addressed and implemented.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Two points to bring up; article was good otherwise:
    1. As you have said in the comments, this article applies to anime streaming in the USA (I’m not even sure if Strike is available in Canada at the time of this writing). I think it’s best for the article to clarify its scope.
    2. I think you need to define “the community”, especially in regards to your arguments about Netflix and simulcasting. I wonder how much of the anime viewership consists of people who watch seasonal vs those who watch previously released stuff

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    1. Amazon Strike has said they’re expanding territories, though I can’t remember off hand exactly what they were.

      As for talking about the scope of the article, I feel as if people interested in that topic should see it in the comments (it’s the first one). It’s something I may talk on more in the future although I don’t feel entirely equipped to at the moment.

      I’m also not equipped to give percentages. I think the community relates to anyone who watches anime through streams, though.

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  3. This is probably the fairest discussion of the legal streaming services I’ve seen, and I agree with pretty much all of the points you’ve made here.

    I especially agree with your point on pirates just wanting the service that is ideal for them. I pirate Anime, more than I’d care to admit, and a lot of that is to do with its advantages over the current paid services (and other, personal reasons which I won’t get into).

    I can get all the shows in one place: my hard drive. I can get them in better quality because there’s no compression going on. I can watch them anywhere, even without internet.

    Of course, I still support the industry where I can though.

    I’m happy that the legal options are improving and becoming more of a driving force in the industry. I hope to see that growth continue and perhaps even get to a level where more people will be willing to choose it over piracy. It’s definitely becoming a reality.

    Great post, Tim. Thanks for sharing and creating such an informative and fair discussion!

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  4. I agree with everything you said.

    When you break it down, Amazon is really ridiculous. My mom is an avid Amazon lover so she is signed up for Prime and she lets me pay the extra $5 a month for Anime Strike. This cost doesn’t affect me really, but I can see how it is unreasonable for others. If my mom didn’t have Prime, I wouldn’t consider Anime Strike.

    As for HiDive, I am very happy about the OVA’s. I am also a huge fan of the kind of cutesy, nichey shows they streaming right now that are exclusive. I also like most things that Sentai licenses. To me, it is worth it for the OVA’s and the cute shows… but… I already spend a decent amount on other streaming services and anime related-things, so I am hesitant. Your point about things being stretched out and it being too costly is valid.

    In a weird way, I feel like Netflix not simulcasting is a little bit of a good thing. I get overwhelmed when I see all of the new anime that is streaming at once. Netflix gives me an excuse to put off a show for a little while and watch it later. This is what I did for Little Witch Academia and it worked out in the end.

    Crunchyrolll is definitely my favorite overall. They have a huge amount of anime, new and old. The app does get funky once in a while, but not enough to annoy me. My only complaint is that there has been more than one occasion where I got charged twice in one month. It has happened only twice to my knowledge, so I am not that upset, but it something to look out for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m honestly not sure I’ve heard of one case where somebody paid for Amazon Prime just to get Strike. I can’t really imagine it. It’s just too much to pay for *any* streaming service. Maybe it’s truly the move that makes the most business sense for Amazon but I can’t remotely see it.

      As for Netflix, I don’t watch simulcasts these days so I understand your perspective. I thought it an important point to advocate because it negatively impacts the larger community, both in the discourse and the way it leads people who would otherwise watch legally to pirate as a last resort. And I think the way they’ve handled the post-airing release of LWA to be less than satisfactory. It just makes it sting that much more.

      And I hadn’t heard about that problem with CR before… I hope they got that sorted out with you? CR is by no means perfect but I think they put a lot of heart into what they do which matters a lot to the anime community.

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  5. Heey, Action Heroine Cheer Fruits is cool. I mean, it has cute girls and who doesn’t like cute girls? AmIRight?! XD

    Joking aside, I had a chat with a friend about streaming the other day and he goes, “Hey Ju, remember back in the day when all we had to do to watch anime was watch fansubs? Back then nobody gave anybody shit for watching that way and now we have all these corporate companies charging our wallets and talking down on anyone who fansubs stuff”.

    Despite my friend being very cynical about it, there is one thing he brought up that interested me. Streaming companies. There is nothing wrong with competition, but too much of it and it’s over. The same goes for monopolizing. What’s the point of having all these streaming companies if nobody is gonna pay for them? That’s probably why Funi partnered with CR and Sentai w/Amazon and don’t even get me started with Daisuki.. If there is going to be fair streaming, it should be between CR, HiDive and Netflix with all of them having good services like free options, downloading, etc. They should be fairly priced and maintain a balance of what shows they’re getting so that people can only view it there. Of course, I’m not business entrepreneur, so this is all in my make-believe world where Amazon doesn’t exist, lol.

    Honestly, I just want to watch anime. I don’t care about the business aspects because it has and will always drive me insane. Business is dirty work and if that’s going to interfere with my hobbies, then I want no part in it. Your post is firm and I’m glad it isn’t cynical about the situation like I am.

    I…apologize for that. :/

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    1. I don’t think it’s cynical at all. It’s very much a possibility that we’re heading in the wrong direction and that the anime streaming industry crashes. You know that friend I talked about in the piracy section? Well, after he read my piece today he said that he was unsure of if he would re-up CR for another year because he’s worried about all these services. Granted, there are other reasons he might change to a month-by-month basis, but it goes to show that people are dissatisfied with the segregation of content. So no, not at all cynical.

      As for Daisuke… yeah, that wasn’t great. HiDive could easily go the same direction. Only time will tell.

      Like

  6. This was an interesting post, to be sure! Thanks for sharing. I thought it was interesting that you mentioned piracy and also that crunchyroll’s free service reduces piracy and let’s everybody win. When I was in high school, I would pirate anime because I had no access to watch them aside from buying them, and I didn’t really want to buy everything that I wanted to watch in order to avoid flooding my collection. I only collect ones that I have completed. When I discovered CrunchyRoll, I stopped pirating because of their free service. A while after my discovery, CrunchyRoll changed its free service so that every time a user watched an anime, they would have to wait X days before being able to watch another episode. The number of days increased with every view. What was a 3 day wait rapidly became a week, then two. I stopped watching and went back to pirating. I only just recently reacquainted myself with the free service, which has replaced it’s old system with one funded by adds. I felt like everyone wins, and I’m much more incentivized to buy the subscription service in the near future after being able to watch free for a while (especially with it being part of vrv; good move!). It’s a bummer the other services haven’t taken a page from their book on this one. I am excited to see where the world of streaming goes. I would have loved to have these types of services when I was a middle and high school student and only had a few TV options limited to English dubs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually didn’t know that CR’s free service worked like that at one point… definitely not a form of the service I’d advocate for as it doesn’t provide a convenient alternative to pirating. Cool to hear a story from somebody who uses their free service, though! I think it’s awesome that even if people don’t necessarily have the money for a paid subscription they can still support the industry through a legal option.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great article & insights. So many options now.

    At home we have DirecTV, & get Anime Network
    on-demand, so we get a selection of about 20
    shows (some not so recent) & we also watch
    Anime Streams TV online which has a HUGE
    backlog, not all the links work but hey its free.

    Like

  8. What an interesting article. You’ve obviously limited it to things available in the US, which is only part of the anime consumers and pretty well off when it comes to legal streaming options, but the idea of researching these things for every country would be both dizzying and impractical I think.

    In Australia, we have access to CR (a somewhat limited catalogue compared to US but still lots of choices), and recently Funimation has made some offerings available in Aus/NZ in addition to HiDIVE bringing us the things which were previously locked down by The Anime Network (which as much as it didn’t say no videos were available in my region, I certainly never found one which was). There’s also a little anime on Daisuki and Viewster (they have very limited catalogues in comparison to the US). I can’t use Daisuki on my computer owing to stupid Flash and Linux DRM issues, but I don’t think this is a concern for the average viewer. We do have a serious provider of anime streaming in Animelab though, which is set up in the same way as Crunchyroll; you can watch free at 480p with ad-supported streams, or pay for a premium subscription which gives you access to better quality streams (of questionable value with bad Australian internet), watch simulcasts the week they air, and also get dubs on certain shows (Animelab gets most of their dubs from Funimation). Animelab sometimes actually has shows licensed which aren’t in the US (we had Hyoka for ages). There’s no legal access to Amazon’s offerings, and Netflix has a far smaller library (you wouldn’t get Netflix just to watch anime anyway I think).

    I have CR premium, but only use the free version of Animelab. These are where I do most of my watching. CR has a lot of content that I’m interested in (like weird anime shorts), and also miraculously has a Windows Phone app, so I can comfortably watch on my phone. I’d consider maybe getting the odd month of Funimation or HiDIVE possibly in the future, but I can’t see myself subscribing on a regular basis (I may get HiDIVE for a month after all of LOGH goes up, and tests of Funimation show that their Australian service has too many problems at present for me to feel like it would be a worthwhile long-term investment). I have no problem with watching a few ads in order to see the shows I like (weirdly, it seems to mostly be internal advertising, though we did have some McDonalds Happy Meal ads served up with my anime at one point). It’s sort of reached a point where while it’s not like I can watch every anime I want to, I have many anime I can legally view that I would like to watch and mostly stick to what is available for me legally. It’s been a bit of a process of retraining myself as I started watching in an age where fansubs were the only really viable method of anime viewing. I think that the free ad-supported with premium perks is the best model for encouraging the existing anime consumer to use your service. I also have the reverse problem of that which many people mention; bad Australian internet means that too much quality is actually a problem. I feel like I may have discussed this with you in the past; that 1080p is a problem and not an advantage for me. Being able to manually drop the stream quality to something which will actually stream is a very important feature! I know I’ve noticed other Aussie bloggers complain about bad internet impacting their anime watching as well.

    With piracy really being such an ingrained part of the anime fan culture, it’s going to take big steps to get people to adapt. The concern of increasing fragmentation is that people will just go back to using alternate means, as the idea of subscribing to more and more services for less and less content per service is increasingly unappealing. I think that each service has some room to improve, and hopefully they will do so (and hopefully we don’t have an issue where more services try to get more exclusive titles in the future). I hope that the days of peak legal availability are not a thing of the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for all this insight! It’s definitely enlightening on a topic I don’t know much about, that being the legal streaming situation in other countries. I had no idea Australia’s online infrastructure was that bad (although I do believe we’ve talked about your own struggle with internet on Twitter before). That does put you in a unique situation in regards to video quality. I think that bitrate encodes have less to do with the resolution of the stream and more the compression but perhaps that has an impact on buffering speeds as well… again, not my area of expertise.

      I’d love to read a full piece on this from you btw (or if it exists, please link!). You’ve got a unique perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t put together anything on this topic before, but I could consider doing so in the future!

        I’m honestly not an expert on how streaming video quality works myself, and I’m not certain how compression and other factors would come into play (perhaps it’s something I could research). I do know that a lot of the discussion around legal streaming in the English-speaking anime fandom tends to be US-centric, but this is partially because such a large part of the English-speaking anime fandom is from the US. On one hand, the insular mentality that I’ve seen at times can be frustrating, but on the other hand, it is quite hard to find out information about these sorts of services outside of your own country. It would be also interesting to get a better understanding of how things work out in other countries too!

        Liked by 1 person

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  13. Steven

    Great article, there is one other issue that hurts HiDive though, that I feel should be mentioned.
    They actually have 7 titles of this season’s simulcast, but only 2 of them are available to North American audiences, while the real problem is that Amazon Strike has “exclusive rights” to these shows, it’s still not a good way to start things off.
    Honestly, I wish that companies like Sentai Filmworks would stop granting exclusive rights to specific streaming services, especially ones without a free option who have a terrible reputation.

    Liked by 1 person

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