Why Do Japanese Companies Block Trailers From Other Countries?

by Justin Sevakis,

Branko asks:

It seems to be common practice for some Japanese companies to region lock their promo videos on YouTube. What exactly is the incentive behind this? Fans will just upload a pirated version immediately. Isn't the point of promotional material to get as many to see and talk about a product as possible? How does blocking international audiences help? Do Hollywood companies do it too, or is this just a Japanese practice?

Don't you hate it when a trailer for a new anime gets posted on YouTube, and you get all excited and you click it, and you get that stupid static screen that says, "sorry, this video is not available in your country"?

You may think there's a good explanation for anime producers blocking a trailer in countries where it wasn't meant to be seen, but there really isn't one. It seems like some Japanese companies haven't quite gotten the message that what they're doing and working on is being seen worldwide, and it's in their best interests to allow their marketing materials to be seen worldwide as well.

Instead, the thought process behind blocking them is a conservative one: "Oh, this trailer is only meant for people in Japan, since it has local broadcast information. Therefore, I will only make it available there." Perhaps there might be some concern over plans for overseas distribution not yet being set, and therefore not knowing if posting such material might endanger a deal, or step on the toes of whoever buys those rights. There might be a thought that some of the material seen in the trailer could be changed or cut for overseas audiences. There also COULD be some residual fear that by marketing a show to places where it can't legally be seen, they're encouraging piracy.

Of course, most of those concerns are not grounded in reality. 99.9% of anime that gets licensed, gets released uncut in most overseas territories (or at least, in the same cut shown to Japanese audiences). People will always discover and pirate anime they can't find legally whether you market it or not. And with licensing negotiations for simulcasts often coming right up to broadcast premiere date, there usually isn't even ample time for overseas release partners to create and disseminate their own marketing materials. That early marketing and buzz is something that they could really use!

What you're seeing is basically a core difference in how Japanese companies operate versus American companies. When making things available to the world, Japanese companies tend to micro-target their audience, and then only open up as needed when there's good reason and everyone's ready (which sometimes is way too late to be effective). American companies will almost always just boldly make everything available to everyone, leaving eventual business partners to deal with it after the fact if they disagree with anything. Both methods definitely have times they work and times they backfire. And one side not understanding the other's logic is one of the biggest reasons for cross-cultural butting of heads in business.

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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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