Why Don't Netflix Anime Get Home Video Releases?

by Justin Sevakis,

DarkShadow asked:

So, several folks in anime circles are complaining that whenever Netflix gets an anime exclusive (i.e. Little Witch Academia TV series), that anime title is effectively condemned to not be released on home video, like it will never be released on home video ever. One person said it's because Netflix is holding shows hostage to force people into subscribing to their service because letting it be released on home video would reduce the incentive to subscribe to their service (of course they actually let Stranger Things get a home video release, even if Target-exclusive). A similar issue also exists with anime being released exclusively to Amazon Prime Video. That being said, what's making it difficult for anime companies to get the home video rights to the Netflix (as well as Amazon)-exclusive anime titles for home video release?

I understand, as a media hoarder, that many of us still want to own our favorite titles -- either as shiny discs, or as a paid item on Amazon or iTunes. However, in this brave new world of feuding streaming platforms spending gobs of money to control content, we may not always get what we want. At least, not for a while.

First, Netflix often does ask for exclusivity across every platform for a period of years -- usually three, I'm told -- just as a normal part of throwing so much money at the title. For Netflix as a business, the value in owning the rights to an anime is that it attracts new subscribers and/or keeps current ones engaged in the service, thereby ensuring subscriptions. If there's another way to get this anime when it's current, it no longer serves to draw people to Netflix.

And Netflix is spending a TON of money on these shows. And since their money is making up a bulk of the production cost, they get their way. Unlike much higher budget projects in the live action realm, there really is nobody else at their level of power to fight for other release methods.

The other issue is that the other people that would need to be interested in a show -- the disc publishers -- would need to be OK with buying ONLY physical media rights to the title. However, revenues from streaming and paid downloads are where a lot of the money is at these days, and most of the publishers insist on having those rights too. They are not interested in just making discs. Most of them are also focused on growing their online streaming businesses. Funimation wants to grow FunimationNow. Sentai wants to grow HiDive. Smaller publishers and non-traditional anime distributors may still be interested in just physical media rights, but they wouldn't be able to pay as much for them. Since any potential deal would likely not mean big money, even if Netflix DID allow it, nobody is really pushing for that to happen.

I'm pretty sure that most of the Netflix-exclusive titles will eventually find their way to a disc format, though it may be a few years before that happens, and who knows if the currently-existing English dub would be available to include. But for now, we don't know when, who, or how that will happen.

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    Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for over 20 years. He's the original 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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