The Post-Simulcast World Is No Different

It’s jumping the gun a little bit, but it might be safe to say that simulcast is here to stay. I think it’s jumping the gun because once you remove Crunchyroll from the picture, there’s not much left. And despite the rosy picture painted by that Californian start-up, it is not a quantity that has fully solidified in my mind. Or at least in the back of my mind. Sometimes I worry that it is doing too good of a job, that there is nobody to replace them if something goes wrong. Which is to say that’s probably worrying too much.

I got a press account to FUNi’s elite doohicky and, guess what, it works like a lazy panda: ie., it doesn’t really work all that well. I tried to use it to watch some Eureka 7 AO on two separate occasions. Couldn’t get the video to load both times. I wonder if I will have better luck on mobile or on a tablet. Perhaps more importantly, FUNi (and similarly Viz, and to a lesser extent, Aniplex) pick and choose titles they want to simulcast, a bit like a strategic decision to deliver a full cross-marketing experience for their customers. The “full” deal markets the goods in a variety of channels, because after all we do not live in a vacuum; we do not buy our $700+ box sets of Fate/Zero or even super-delayed FUNi boxes of their ex-Simulcasted shows without first hearing about it from somewhere. By the time we wanted to pick up Bakatest we have already have made our minds up on it, and by “our minds” I mean the internet hive mind. Individual mavericks are still going to buy things blind or out of reasons unrelated to the show itself, but the internet word-of-mouth machine has a huge say on a small subcultural genre like ours. There are exceptions of course, maybe shows like Kenichi, but that strategy only works in the very rare cases to create entire markets from scratch. Simulcast or not, the internet hive mind will have an opinion on some show somehow. It takes no effort on the foreign distributor’s part to seed hits; it’s like wild flowers, tended by fansubbers and anime clubs and what have you. All they could do is to gently lend it a hand, and slowly change things in harmony.

Unfortunately doing nothing is probably not a great business model. I think this is why I worry about CR; the business of delivering simulcast as their main product is tenable but it doesn’t leave a lot of room to compete. If you do, you compete on the basis of quality of service and price. Thankfully they are bar none, but I suspect that is also why they are so good at delivering a positive customer experience, because that is their bread and butter.

But for the rest, they’re in for the long haul. When Funimation signs up one of their shows, they do a new dub, they do a neat little marketing doohicky. They declared war on pants! The joke aside, the full business from streaming to re-release to Amazon deals to whatever, is the sort of resources they commit to their titles. They can’t afford flops. So what happens if one of their simulcast titles flop? I’m thinking that is just the current status today. This is why they do a lot of license rescuing too; because they’re all vetted. Seems like a no-brainer.

I’m going to just say that simulcasting is one of those things that ultimately when the business is to make money selling home videos, it’s really not all that important. For one, you might be spending money on shows that will tank. Some say it cannibalizes home video sales, some say it does not. I don’t think it matters. Unless you play to win in streaming, the only thing you can do is partner up with people who do play to win, or else you get this Funi elite POS. So I’m glad FUNi streams on Youtube and Hulu, because those sites also play to win. But at the same time, it makes me wonder what choices did FUNi have in this matter. It’s like they want to make some money from simulcasting, because it is a thing they are doing and they might as well try to make a dime on it, or at least not lose out too much.

In the end, the simulcast broadcast is just one part of the broader, deeper, more complicated marketing strategy. Especially the pay-to-air model of media-mixed anime, when the original thing exists because there’s a manga or a light novel or because GSC’s logo is pasted on it or some such. Often anime is just a small derivative, even if sometimes, that is all we want. From another perspective, simulcast just one of the little things, like the rights to the seiyuu interview clips on R2 releases–either you have it (or pay to get it) or you don’t, does it matter to your bottom line?

I think that’s the ultimate question. I’m thinking it does in terms of protecting the brand, but what else?

As  a follow-up to that noitaminA post, I think looking at the side-by-side sales/viewership figure tells you a lot about what anime does well versus what anime does well for the home video publisher. Maybe some smartass down in Texas has a spreadsheet or two that figures this out by some kind of factor, so they can decide what price to license what and how much to spend on marketing. But the idea that some shows are widely viewed but nobody buys is hardly a secret. How to take that into account seems to be the key factor in licensing non-duds. Yes, even simulcast numbers tell you only so much about sales. This is why it is like pulling teeth to get Funi to release anything from noitaminA: nobody buys this crap. And I suspect this is why their year-long partnership ended unceremoniously.

Well, as stated in the previous noitaminA post, clearly people do buy Guilty Crown. This is why FUNi is doing a Blu-ray (looking forward to that). But I guess the smartass among you might ask about Mononoke, which I would have to point you to Ayakashi’s sales number and what happened in the US. At the very least, they tried, so I can’t fault them.

The take-home, I think, is that ultimately simulcasts don’t matter, unless you make your bread and butter from pushing stuff through the stream. And it shows.

PS. At least you would think simulcasting reduces fansubber drama. HA HAHAHAHA. Yeah. Sure.

PPS. Can someone explain to us how did Fractale get a release LOL.


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