Anime Boston 2008 ADV Films
by Mikhail Koulikov,
As usual, David L. Williams hosted Anime Boston's ADV panel, but for this year, he was joined by production coordinator Janice Williams.
David's duties at ADV have involved production, marketing and directing dubs. Currently, however, he is working mostly in what he calls the company's "black ops" section, involved with evaluating potential new anime to acquire the rights to. In this capacity, he has also been involved with ADV's broader plans, some of which have been aimed at buying out other companies in the North American anime industry.
Overall, in Williams' words, "stories of ADV's demise have been greatly exaggerated." "We are still around...and I guarantee you, we will continue to be around," he announced a few minutes into the panel. As an indication of this, he also confirmed that ADV has licensed the collectible card game-based 51-episode series Kiba.
At the same time, ADV has experienced a period of release schedule delays. The delays were largely due to the original ownership of the affected titles in Japan transfering from their original owners that ADV had acquired them from to new companies. The issues that led to the delays have now largely been resolved, and ADV is working to return the anime affected to the release schedule. The two that are still held up in negotiations, however, are Gurren Lagann and Keroro Gunso, for which ADV is "negotiating to maximize the value of the title in the U.S.", strongly suggesting ongoing negotiations to place it on American television.
With these issues out of the way, the panel turned to Williams using his licensing and negotiating experience to talk about some of ADV's more long-term goals. The company still does not have any firm plans to embrace the Blu-Ray format. At this point, Williams also dismisses the potential of high-definition releases beyond what is being made available on the Anime Network and via the XBox live Marketplace service.
Similarly, while some other companies are beginning to look into novel release formats, such as half-season sets, he argues that for the industry as a whole, abandoning single DVD releases is not yet economically feasible. Ultimately, those remain a significant revenue generator to recoup licensing and production costs. ADV may consider full-season distribution for some future "C-level" titles, but even for those, half-season sets are not likely.
He also claimed that, although Geneon Entertainment USA has effectively ceased operations, its Japanese corporate parent, Dentsu, is still not sure of the direction they want to take with the company and its licenses. Personally, Williams is beginning to question how much value is left in both the series that Geneon dropped mid-release, but argues that the other companies in the industry are still interested in "rescuing" the series that Geneon licensed, but was never able to actually begin bringing out.
Looking at the bigger, industry-wide picture, in Williams' view, both the sheer number of anime DVDs that companies are releasing, and the typical price points will have to decrease. while, as the Japanese anime production and licensing firms become fully aware of American market conditions, licensing prices will begin dropping. Previously, especially in 2003-2004, even the excessive fees charged by some Japanese companies for their licenses were sustainable by actual sales numbers, but that is no longer the case. At the same time, figuring out how to successfully implement truly simultaneous releases of anime DVDs in the U.S. and in Japan will be one of the biggest puzzles the entire industry will have to solve. He also argued that even making English-language dubs available at the same time as the Japanese release is not impossible. Ultimately, in his words, day-and-date releases between the U.S. and Japan will happen "because they have to happen", if the entire industry is to survive.
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