Why Are Anime Discs Re-released So Much?

by Justin Sevakis,

James asks:

Funimation has released and re-released Dragon Ball countless times, which I find to be very annoying, since it is clearly an attempt to get more money from their customers, and there is little that can be added to any further releases of such an old series to justify purchasing a new release. Other companies do this, as well, most notably Disney with their animated films, so do you find it annoying when companies constantly re-release their products, with only minor improvements, to get more money from their customers? Is it likely that they may stop this practice at any time in the near future?

Why would I be annoyed if a company reissues a show that I already have? Not everything they do is about me. Nobody is forcing me to buy anything. If there aren't any noticeable upgrades to picture quality or features, I'm not going to buy it. What's the problem, exactly?

Anime gets re-released on DVD all the time. Sometimes it's because the show switched to a new publisher after being out of print for a long time. Sometimes it's because there's a new master, or a previous release of the show had issues that should be corrected. But most of the time there's little to no difference in the product itself when a show gets re-released. Oftentimes the publisher doesn't even bother authoring a new version of the disc itself -- they just change the packaging.

The reason publishers do this actually has little to do with the fans. It's actually done to keep the disc stocked at physical retail stores. And if you look carefully, you'll notice that the companies who reissue discs a lot are the publishers who work hard to place their product at retail stores, rather than just online.

In order to get a disc into stores, the sales team of a publisher has to make a case to a retail buyer that the show is hot, popular, and will sell if they just put it on their shelves. However, the only time a company gets to actively solicit the buyer is when the disc is first coming out. Retail buyers go through that month's new releases, and read each new title's list of selling points. Some of these aren't too far off from what gets shown to consumers ("A new release of a classic! Over 1,000,000 units sold! From the creator of _____! Based on the hit video game! As seen on Cartoon Network!"), but some of it is clearly only aimed at them ("Cross-trailered on these giant hit discs! Merchandise tie-ins available! Ad campaign on major anime and game related websites 1 week before and after street date!") Some of this marketing jargon filters down to the consumer level, but most of it is actually aimed at retail buyers, who are usually not fans and have a ludicrous amount of video and other stuff to keep track of. They are not paying very close attention, and don't have time to research every single release.

After the disc is released, it might sell, it might not. But while a store might restock a hot seller once or twice, after that they tend to forget about it. If extra copies are still floating around that retailer's inventory months or years after release, they might send them back for credit towards newer releases. But aside from that, they'll likely never think about that disc ever again.

But a repackaging and re-release, even with few or no changes, is a fresh chance to get onto store shelves. It's a reminder to retail buyers that the product exists, and that they should stock it. And while this might only work once or twice with a slow seller (the buyers are bound to catch on eventually -- "hey, didn't I just send a ton of this show back because nobody wanted it?") huge perennial bestsellers like Dragon Ball Z will always make both the retailer and the publisher money, because every time it's freshly presented on store shelves, people buy it.

So that's why discs get reissued with new packaging all the time. It's not about you, it's about the retail system. Don't take it personally.

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Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for nearly 20 years. He's 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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