Does A Stronger US Dollar Help Anime Companies?

by Justin Sevakis,

Branko asks:

With the strength of the US dollar right now, I wondered, how much does the value of a currency affect the profitability of an anime when it gets licensed abroad? While a strong dollar hurts US exports, is it actually a benefit to American companies licensing anime?

You bet a stronger US dollar against the Yen helps the anime business. It helps in all sorts of ways.

License agreements are usually set in US dollars, so while the price of licensing a show won't change much, the amount of Yen that the licensors will get for the same number of dollars is much higher. That's very good for the licensors and for anime producers' bottom lines. However, when a show gets licensed, someone is on the hook for materials charges: the amount of money it takes to duplicate a master tape, capture something to a hard drive at a Japanese lab, and whatever other materials need to be prepared and shipped. Those costs are usually paid by the American publisher, and with a strong dollar, the price of everything goes down.

The exchange rate is also good for anyone importing products from Japan for sale in the US. From Japanese bookstores like Kinokuniya, to mail-order places like J-List, to Aniplex USA importing Blu-rays en masse, to even people like you and me buying new Japanese discs and merchandise online, everything is now significantly cheaper than it was a few years ago. A ¥20,000 boxed set would've cost over US$260 in 2011, but today it's $167! That's a HUGE savings!

It's not all roses, however. Anything involving Japanese companies spending money in the US -- getting booths at anime conventions, producing their own dubs, or even flying to the US for meetings has become significantly more expensive. Due to the exchange rate, a Japanese company might balk at sending a voice actor or director to an American convention. They're less likely to buy ads on American (or Canadian) websites.

There are lots of plusses and minuses to having any significant swing in exchange rates. Find yourself on the right side of that swing, and you can make out like a bandit. Wait too long, and you could find yourself having to fork over quite a bit more money. If you've been putting off importing an expensive model kit or Blu-ray that you've been wanting, this is the time to buy.

Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!)

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.

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