How Long Will Anime Stay Up On A Streaming Site?

by Justin Sevakis,

Aakash asked:

My question is in regards to license lengths. I know for DVDs and Blu-rays some licensees from publishers have expired for some older titles. My question is in regards to digital licenses. As streaming is the big trend now, how long do licenses for like Crunchyroll last to allow them to keep them in their catalog. I'm wondering when I get older will I be able to access some shows I would want to show people or do I have to just buy the series.

Generally, when it comes to term lengths for anime streaming licenses, there are two types of license agreements: the ones that are independent of any home video (DVD/Blu-ray) rights and the ones that are tied in with them. The agreements that are combined with home video rights usually cover the exact same length of time as the DVDs and Blu-rays -- commonly five to seven years.

Standalone streaming licenses can either come directly from Japan or be sublicensed from a publisher like Funimation or Sentai or Viz. These licenses usually start with a short but reasonable term -- maybe a year or two -- but then automatically renew without either the streaming service or the licensor (the company ISSUING the license) doing anything. So essentially, these agreements are open-ended. There will usually be a provision in these contracts that allows either party to terminate the license at any time after that initial term is over.

What this essentially means is that after the first year or two, the anime could come down off the site at any time, with no warning. All that has to happen is for anybody involved, from the Japanese producer and master licensor to the local publisher to the streaming site, wanting to take the show down, and it's gone.

Those take-downs can happen for any number of reasons. Maybe the local publisher thought they could get an extension on their rights to the show, but now they can't, so they have to pull it down from all of their partner sites. Maybe the streaming site has decided the show isn't popular enough to be worth hosting. Maybe the producers of the show realized that a song in the anime wasn't actually cleared for worldwide internet streaming. Maybe the show's original creators are trying to sell Hollywood remake rights and want to make it seem like the show hasn't been seen in the US before. I can think of dozens of possible reasons.

Long story short, if you want to show a series to friends and family years down the line, you really should get the discs or at least a paid download if one is available (such as from iTunes, Amazon, or one of the game console media stores). You never know what's going to happen to shows on streaming services. They could stay up for the rest of the site's life, or it could disappear tomorrow.

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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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