We knew it was coming. The writing was on the wall for a while now. Cartoon Network has officially killed Toonami, and has effectively killed any chance for Adult Swim anime (who’s going to stay up/get up at 5am to watch Code Geass or Guardian of the Spirit, on a Sunday?!). So, anime companies have had to find new outlets to show their anime. They know no one is going to buy it without seeing it first. Sci-Fi seems to be doing fairly well with their Ani-Mondays, and Funimation is expanding their shows on their channel (for those of us lucky enough to have Verizon FiOS. hehe). But the wave of the future, and we all know it’s coming, is internet broadcasting. And anime companies seem to be embracing it now, while it’s still early.
Fans and fansubbers have been saying it for a while; make anime available online for people to watch and/or download. Companies have made small attempts, such as using direct-2-drive and other services hampered by DRM and dub only shows. But in the last few days, we have seen announcements from Hulu.com, the network sponsored streaming site for both dubbed and subbed anime from Viz, Funimation, and Gong (coming soon). Then Viz sent out a press release to promote their deal with Joost, one of the first internet tv sites, which will also stream anime from the same companies, both subbed and dubbed.
Nowadays, kids spent more time on the computer than almost anything else. The computer has become a replacement for the telephone (IM/SMS), the TV (streaming/Youtube), and radio/cd player (mp3s/internet radio). They have become used to watching what they want, when they want. Companies that figure that out, and get established now will be in better position in the long run. But really, how much of this move has been by choice?
Viz has created a marketing scheme in which cross-promotion is key. The so-called “Cartoon Network Effect” catapulted at least two of their manga titles, Naruto and Bleach, to the top of the USA Today Top 150 numerous times. The whole line up of their Shonen Jump magazine depends on their anime counterparts. In order to keep selling their manga at the levels they have been, they need to keep the anime flowing. And with Cartoon Network no longer playing ball, it’s time for them, and the other anime companies to find new players.
On the whole, I think this is a good thing. I really think online distribution/streaming is way for anime to go, as the rest of TV is going that way. The shows are still sponsored by ad revenue, and smart salesmen will make them targeted ads, with maybe even some in house. Now when is manga going to get it’s streaming/online distribution? This model is perfect for manga. Everyday on my blog, one of the top searches that bring people to it is online manga, and my post about reading manga on the kindle is my most read post.
People want to read manga online. Some will argue that they just want to read it for free, but it’s no different than anime. People want to see that for free too, and the ones that really like it will buy the DVDs. It’ll be the same for manga. So come on you publishers! Don’t make me into a broken record with the line that online manga stimulates real manga sales. There are already sites people can go to to read manga online for free. Publishers should pull together like the TV networks did to create a central site where people can go to read older manga online, DRM free, and push the sales of newer volumes and similar titles. With limited shelf space, and online being unlimited, this should be a no brainer.
It’s better to make this move now, while there is still a choice, than by necessity. Usually by then, it’s too late.