Anime streaming is a dog eat dog world and the competition in it will continue to go on, as more and more services decide to take their slice in the anime cake and try to eat it all up. Especially as more mainstream streaming sites like Netflix and more recently Amazon start to increase their hold in the anime industry.
Every season, it’s a rush for companies like Funimation, Crunchyroll, Sentai Filmworks, Aniplex of America, Madman/AnimeLab, Daisuki and even on occasion Viz Media to look at the new anime airing in Japan and try to grab up the ones that will succeed and are popular with fans in the hopes of gaining new viewers and by extension getting more revenue. Naturally this means that every company will try their hardest to make relationships with Japanese publishers and get their foot in the door first when it comes to the big new shows.
Funimation for instance, has been trying to increase their reach by being on the production committee of the anime Dimension W, something they used to their advantage by showing fans how the Japanese creators work through a series of production diaries and making the show another in their line of broadcast dubs, that even got its exclusive premiere on Adult Swim’s Toonami block while still streaming online afterwards. Likewise Crunchyroll has gotten to be a part of the production committees for Studio Trigger’s Space Patrol Luluco and Kiznaiver, acting as those shows’ international streamer and might possibly release them on home video in the future too.
The aforementioned broadcast dubs initiative started by Funi allows a handful of shows they’re simulcasting each season to be dubbed into English using their own in-house cast & crew and are put online while the series is still airing in Japan (barring a gap of a few weeks to get enough episodes to work with). It’s an enormous change of pace for anime simulcasting and it allowed Funimation to tap into a large group of fans whose preference for dubs they could take advantage of to gain more subscribers and revenue. Even Aniplex of America jumped in on the broadcast dub idea, providing a dub for the second season of Durarara!! while it was still airing in Japan.
Even then, these efforts seem to have been eclipsed by Netflix and Amazon’s moves into the industry with what they’ve grabbed up and what they have to offer. Especially as sources have told us that the both of them are paying the big bucks to stream anime.
Netflix has only just gotten started into the anime game in the past few years, starting with when they licenced Knights of Sidonia in 2014. Since then they’ve slowly increased their ‘Netflix Original’ anime library, picking up Sidonia’s second season, The Seven Deadly Sins, Ajin: Demi Human and most recently Kuromukuro and Magi: Adventure of Sinbad. They’re even living up to their promise of producing an anime by working with Production I.G to exclusively premiere the original series Perfect Bones worldwide.
Granted there’s still some ups and downs with Netflix‘s increasing slate of anime. While they do produce several language tracks for all of these shows (and even for anime they exclusively stream but don’t label as Originals like Little Witch Academia), outside of Sidonia they don’t even provide proper credits for the cast and crew involved with each localisation meaning that the English cast involved with shows like Seven Deadly Sins had to announce themselves via social media.
Too many players in online anime streaming?
The biggest problem of all though is that they don’t simulcast any of their anime titles, still sticking to the binge watching strategy that’s worked so well for many of their other original shows. The thing is that most of those other shows never aired on TV to begin with and premiered exclusively on Netflix so there was never this feeling of missing out or having to avoid spoilers, hell even some international shows that Netflix has licenced were aired week to week like Better Call Saul and Orphan Black in certain countries. It’s even more glaring because their latest anime pickups of Kuromukuro and Sinbad are being simulcast only on Netflix Japan with English subtitles annoyingly enough, while the rest of the world is left waiting out the months just to see these two shows subbed legally outside of Japan.
On the other side of anime streaming is Amazon. Their move into the anime streaming business was not only unexpected but made a huge impression. That impression being that they signed a deal with Fuji TV’s Noitamina programming block to exclusively stream all their future anime on their Prime Video service, starting with Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. Remember how we said earlier that our sources mentioned Netflix and Amazon were paying lots of money to stream anime? Well this unprecedented deal most certainly proves that. Unlike Netflix they actually are simulcasting Kabaneri and all future Noitamina shows. The downside is that Amazon Prime’s Video service is only available in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and Austria, completely barring the rest of the world from legally watching their anime lineup.
Even if Amazon’s serious with their intent to compete with Netflix and are adding a new pricing scheme, this lack of international reach could easily be their downfall when it comes to their service, not just including anime streaming. In fact the details of their anime streaming deal haven’t been made fully clear yet either. Will they dub Kabaneri or any future anime after they finish airing and release it on DVD and Blu-ray? Or will they sublicence it and leave it in the hands of an actual anime company? (like how Netflix made a deal with Sentai Filmworks to release Knights of Sidonia on home video) What happens with the second season of Saekano in 2017? Will Aniplex of America be able to get it since they already licenced Season 1? There’s too much up in the air right now.
Ultimately Netflix and Amazon are certainly trying to tap into the anime market as best they can, but companies whose whole business is anime know what they’re doing better. Neither of them really treat or advertise their anime particularly well, as just one example Netflix barely said a word about Seven Deadly Sins until a month before it premiered on the service (and this was more or less a year after it started airing in Japan mind you).
At the end of the day, it’s all one big competition that may never really have a winner but the loser is us fans. With so many shows on so many services streaming exclusively, we’re going to be spread thin in our time and money trying to keep up with it all and there likely will never be a service out there to monopolise anime streaming online.
So where does the future of anime streaming stand? Well no one really knows for sure, all we’re left to do is wait and see.