How Are TV Networks Associated With Anime?

by Justin Sevakis,

Kevin asks:

Every once in a while I see an anime with a TV station logo which makes me wonder. Why do some anime shows only be on a single network? Like most of Toei shows are only on Fuji TV and naruto is only on TV Tokyo. Why do these studios get there show on a single network and not on multiple networks? There are some shows that can be on a 2-3 networks but these show cant? Its almost as if they owned that show and the studio. Is there a connection or do they not want there shows being shown around?

Traditionally, TV networks pay money for the right to show a specific show. As part of that arrangement, they get the show exclusively for a given length of time -- usually a year or two. This is because in order to make money on that show, the network then has to sell advertising to fill in the commercial breaks. If another network has the show, the audience gets split among multiple places, and the advertising loses its value. If the TV network (or streaming service) is an advertising-free subscription service, they REALLY wouldn't want viewers to be able to see that show somewhere else, because then why would they sign up?

This is how the business of television has worked since the beginning, in every country. It's the same reason why you can't find Westworld on ABC, or Better Call Saul on FX. It's a basic part of the TV business that the network that premieres a show takes a certain amount of ownership over it: they spend a ton of money promoting it, they often have input on the content of the show, and it's they who decide if the show lives or gets cancelled. After all, their ability to attract viewers and sell ads based on those viewership numbers is how the show is getting produced in the first place.

For "Mainstream" anime that are broadcast during normal hours are still dependent on this model to a degree -- stuff like One Piece and Boruto -- that business model gets shifted slightly. Rather than the network depending on selling ads to a bunch of different companies, there is usually a single major sponsor for that whole series. The network (and the whole production) is dependent on that main sponsor to keep going, and their support is the main factor in whether a show lives or dies. But the network still plays a crucial role.

However, these days the majority of anime is coming in the form of late-night TV. These are aired like infomercials: the network is simply selling the late-night block of air time to the producers of the show. These usually only air on one network, once a week, simply because there's no reason to buy more time to air the same show. Fans who want to see it can find it, and can set their DVRs. More ad time would double the cost, and split the audience -- the ratings for the show would no longer look as attractive with half the viewership tuning into one place and half in another. In some cases, a national satellite network will also air the show, but most people don't have satellite TV service.

Anime DOES air on different TV stations in different cities. For example, Attack on Titan Season 2 is airing on Tokyo MX in Tokyo, MBS in Osaka; Television Saitama, Chiba TV, Gunma TV, Tochigi TV, TV Aichi, and about a dozen other local TV channels, all at a different time and on another night of the week. This is because these channels sell the late night time slots separately.

There are shows where the TV network is part of the production committee, and in some cases, are even the show's producer, and the licensor for overseas sales. NHK, the government owned national TV network, owns nearly all of the anime they've ever broadcast. TV Tokyo is part of many different production committees. Fuji TV's parent company Fujisankei Communications Group produces the shows in the NoitaminA time slot, and sister company Pony Canyon is on the production committee for many more.

So you see, the relationship between TV networks and anime is not as clear-cut as being "affiliated" with a particular animation studio (who usually don't control much about the show itself). The reality is much more complicated.

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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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