Do Streaming Numbers Count?

by Justin Sevakis,

Cody asks:

I was wondering how much does viewer count matter on streaming services like crunchyroll if at all? They've recently added some older shows, like A Certain Scientific Railgun, that I've already watched and I honestly tend not to rewatch shows very often unless showing them to friends. However I do want to support the service and the shows beyond simply my monthly subscription fee even if all I do is have it running on another monitor while I'm doing other stuff. I would assume that thy would track how often the shows are viewed and use it as feedback for whether to keep shows when the license expires and what types of shows people are interested in watching when looking for new shows

Streaming numbers do count, but they don't really count for as much as they used to.

A few years ago, many streaming sites -- Hulu specifically -- worked on a revenue sharing model: revenue from whatever ads played with the anime got split with the licensor, who got a monthly statement showing which shows earned how much money from how many views. In other words, the total payout from streaming depended entirely on how many people watched the show.

Those days are now pretty much over, however. Hulu and whoever else now pay an up-front license fee for streaming rights, much like a TV network would. There are still shows up on various services that are still under old contracts, but they're shows that have been up for years. And while Crunchyroll is still trying to maintain as large of an active catalog as possible, Hulu has already purged most of the slowest performers.

Editor's Note:Upon publication, Crunchyroll let us know that they still pay a royalty based on viewership for every anime on the site. We regret the mischaracterization.

For back catalog titles like A Certain Scientific Railgun, expectations are already pretty low when it comes to how well it does streaming. Most of the "heat" on streaming is for new simulcasts, not for shows that are a few years old (or older). There are exceptions -- big, earth-shattering mega-hits like Naruto or Attack on Titan will always do pretty well. (And a quick glance at Crunchyroll's "popular" section shows that as of this writing, Railgun is beating both of those.)

If an older show on a streaming site isn't doing well, nobody is going to work very hard to keep it up there. On the other hand, most licensors aren't in a hurry to pull things down these days either -- exposure on streaming sites can and has revitalized long running and old franchises that previously never hit in the West. It's always nice if an older show does extremely well, but unless someone behind the scenes has an agenda to take the show down already, it's not altogether clear whether viewership numbers make any difference at all.

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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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