Did The Fans Kill Anime Strike?
by Justin Sevakis,
I and pretty much every other anime fan out there am over the moon that everyone hated Anime Strike enough that Amazon finally gave up and all the stuff on there is now open to anyone with Amazon Prime. This is probably good for the industry too, right?
Many people hoped that, when Anime Strike had not announced a single exclusive release for the winter season, its days were numbered, but nonetheless I think most of us were surprised that the retail giant's experiment with the streaming anime market got cut so quickly. The service had scarcely launched a year earlier, after all. They barely even gave it a chance. Surely there was still time to rework the pricing, reach out more to the community, and right the ship.
It was not to be. Anime Strike's demise wasn't solely because it disappointed the market it was trying to serve, though. The service was one part of a much bigger picture: the fact that Amazon's streaming service just isn't doing well, in general.
The last quarter of 2017 was a tumultuous one for Amazon Studios. After a promising early start with Transparent and Bosch, the network spent an ungodly sum of money on shows that ultimately failed, like Z: The Beginning of Everything, and The Last Tycoon. While Amazon doesn't release any numbers (other than overall Prime subscribers, who mostly join for free shipping), the general consensus in Hollywood was that the service was a distant third in popularity behind Netflix and Hulu, and well-known producers and writers publicly expressed dismay at how the place was being run. When studio head Roy Price was accused of sexual harassment, Amazon used the opportunity to clean house. Within a couple of weeks the majority of the division's senior management had resigned.
Anime Strike and its sister service Heera (which specialized in Bollywood movies) were part of the vision of that old regime. When the new management took over, they no doubt they saw how the two secondary services were performing and decided not to continue throwing money at them. We can only guess as to their logic, but they no doubt have bigger fish to fry. Rather than continuing to throw money at a small audience that's turned hostile towards them, I'm sure they think it a better idea to concentrate on making a new mainstream hit.
I don't think there's any arguing that asking anime fans, who are largely young and less financially well off, to pay an extra $5 a month IN ADDITION to $99 per year was a consumer-friendly thing to do. I don't think any fans were too excited to shell out for YET ANOTHER subscription service in order to get access to all of the good shows each season. The company made all the classic moves of a media giant trying to blast its way into the anime business: it didn't understand the fans or the market, and made no attempt to connect on any sort of grass-roots level. And when the fans reacted with predictable scorn, they left quickly. I can't tell you how many times I've seen this exact same scenario play out. (Anyone remember when Warner Bros. tried to release Jojo's Bizarre Adventure on their own?)
But Amazon did play a huge role in driving up licensing costs to their current stratospheric levels. Japanese producers are, no doubt, sad to lose them. Crunchyroll and Funimation... probably not so much. I don't think this will cool off license fees very much for the immediate future, but at least we're now less likely to see them continue to push higher.
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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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