Why Aren't More Dubs Available For Streaming?

by Justin Sevakis,

Scotty asks:

Do you know why site likes Hulu and Crunchyroll only let you steam the subbed versions of anime even if there is a dub available. I'm a paying member of both but they only have some dubs there but I know some shows actually have them. Are the subs that much more preferred?

Many shows have dubs that are not available to stream, but are available on currently-issued DVD.

This is for a few reasons. The biggest is that, the whole reason why streaming and simulcasting of anime started a few years ago in such earnest was to offer a legal alternative to downloaded fansubs, which at the time were the main way that anime fans stayed current with new shows. Subtitles could be produced relatively quickly and easily by the professional companies too, so it wasn't such a big deal to simply replace the utility that fansubs provided.

But dubs were something else. Dubs reach a different, often bigger, more mainstream market. Many of the people that watched dubs, it was thought, were more "fringe" fans, who were less likely to download a torrent, and were more apt to watch the show through traditional means such as TV broadcast or DVD. Additionally, dub fans could never be fully satisfied by fansubs. Dubs are also very expensive and time-consuming to produce, and for a few years after the bursting of the anime bubble, they could cost more than licensing the show in the first place.

The industry at large was extremely hesitant about giving away anime online for free. Many companies took years to convince that money could be made by streaming shows online. Funimation enacted a policy where only the first 2-4 episodes of dubbed versions would be put online, to give audiences a taste of the dub before buying. Viz often put up only subtitled versions of catalog shows, while Sentai generally put up everything. By withholding the dubbed versions from streaming services, it was thought that they could protect sales of discs from any cannibalization: the dub fans, which are generally more plentiful, would still buy the discs, while the subtitle fans would switch to legal streams instead of the fansubs.

This may have been true several years ago, but it isn't true today. Streaming now accounts for a huge part of anime revenues, and that revenue has driven licensing costs sky high once again. Fans of all types are enjoying anime on streaming services, and would love to have all language options available. Funimation and several other companies are now producing dubs specifically FOR streaming audiences.

But time and manpower is limited, and there are still many shows that have only been posted as subtitled versions. Going back and reformatting shows for streaming sites can be quite time consuming (Hulu and Netflix both make content providers jump through a number of technical hoops to deliver their video), and when manpower is limited, the publishers' time is far better spent on current season shows. Perhaps there are still a few executives that think withholding a dubbed version will boost sales of the DVD, but presently I don't see much logic to that conclusion.

Regardless, once shows are posted and are no longer "current," with a handful of blockbuster exceptions, they become low priority for publishers, who are often overwhelmed by trying to stay on top of new series. They may get to revisiting an old show at some point, but I wouldn't hold your breath.

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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. Please note that he does not take question submissions via Twitter.

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