Why Do Older Shows Go Unstreamed?

by Justin Sevakis,

Chris asks:

So, I have noticed over the past few years or so that certain series that have a following already have gotten passed up for streaming rights (i.e., Nanoha ViVid, Dog Days", Milky Holmes, etc. just to name a few) for other properties that are on their first run. From a risk standpoint, this seems counter-intuitive, unless they did that poorly in the past. Why is this? Likewise, I have seen properties that got incredible or good ratings (i.e., Hyouka, The Seven Deadly Sins, etc.) never licensed in favor of series that were fluff at best and unwatchable whatever at worst. I realize that money and relationships between companies are factors, but it still comes off as odd.

For the last few years, nearly every new show gets simulcast. For the few shows where that doesn't happen, there's usually a reason why not. These reasons can range from someone on the production committee not wanting to stream the show at all, to the licensor asking for too much money. Or some licensed element or cast member that's not allowed to be broadcast outside of Japan. Or any number of other scenarios. Licensing fees for streaming have gotten very, very high in general, so whatever holds up these deals, especially lately, would have to be pretty significant -- it's causing the licensor to have to turn down a huge amount of revenue.

So on one hand, it stands to reason that whatever holds back a show from being simulcast isn't just going to magically fix itself after a few seasons. But on the other hand, it's also true that North American licensors don't pursue older shows quite as hard, particularly if they're not major hits. The fact of the matter is, when streaming is concerned, the vast majority of the traffic comes while the show is still airing. That's when everybody is talking about it, that's when the buzz happens, and that's when everyone's trying to keep current. Once a show finishes airing, people will still find it later, but in far fewer numbers than would have happened when the show was still fresh and new. Most fans have moved onto whatever new is airing that season.

That drop in viewership translates to the show being worth a lot less to anime publishers, and the shows' new diminished value will likely no longer line up with what the licensors expect to get for those shows. If the shows ever get picked up for an all-rights deal (i.e. home video, TV, etc.) then that show will probably end up streaming somewhere at that point. But the shows you mention have all yet to find homes, which leads me to believe that there is some extenuating circumstance holding them back.

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Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap, and check out his bi-weekly column on real, strange stories from the anime business, Tales of the Industry.

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