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Otakon 2010
Funimation Industry Panel

by Gia Manry,

Funimation's Adam Sheehan opened up the company's Otakon 2010 panel along with Joshua Morris, the new events and conventions manager. Sheehan launched into a discussion about the state of the anime industry and recalled Funimation's responses to past crises, including the 2008 "Don't Panic" campaign and Funimaton's 17% growth in 2009.

Morris noted that the industry needs new blood, and offered the following data: that 51% of DVD conumers are over 25, while 40% are between 18 and 24. But the largest group online is those between the ages of 13 and 17. Conventions have also seen growth: Seattle's SakuraCon grew 22% from 2008 to 2009, and 9% from 2009 to 2010. Anime Boston grew 8% in 2009 and 12% in 2010.

Sheehan then spoke about Funimation's social media programs, such as the Funimation blog and the company's official Twitter account, which has 7,500 followers. Funimation's Facebook account receives over 3.6 million monthly impressions and has 72,000 fans, with an average of 20% growth per month. Funimation's YouTube channel has 154,000 subscribers, the 56th most-subscribed account in the directors category.

Following up with Funimation's simulcasts, Sheehan stressed the importance of getting titles within a week, a day, or within hours of the Japanese release, and listed simulcast titles such as One Piece, Rainbow, and Legend of the Legendary Heroes. Morris noted that the FUNimation Channel has also expanded, and invited fans to request the channel via Funimation's request cards or a web-based form.

Piracy was also addressed: Funimation's anti-piracy team consists of one lawyer and three additional staff, who work to report copyright infringement. In addition to Internet piracy, the group also looks into counterfeit goods in both online and brick-and-mortar stores.

Next the duo listed new and upcoming releases:

Sheehan then presented Funimation's upcoming new social media site, which will be housed at Funimation.com. The site is not publicly accessible but users can sign up for a chance to be in the beta test, which starts in September, at Funimation.com/beta. The site should launch in October, but a firm date will be announced after the beta test. Funimation will also launch an elite membership for the site which will grant users early access to English-dubbed releases, ad-free browsing and videos, exclusive forums and additional contests.

Next came cast announcements for Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~, Oh! Edo Rocket, and Black Butler, which were already announced via press release earlier in the day.

Strike Witches season two was the first new acquisition announced; Funimation will host the simulcast a week after its release on Crunchyroll and the first DVD release will come out in 2011. The next acquisition was Blessing of the Campanella (Shukufuku no Campanella), which will stream online; a DVD release has been announced for a later date. Okamisan, known in Japan as Ōkami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi, will be released streamed and released on DVD as well. Hetalia: World Series (seasons three and four) and the Hetalia movie Paint It, White have also been acquired for DVD and streaming release.

Next cam an announcement of the acquisition of the Madhouse-animated film Summer Wars, directed by The Girl Who Leapt Through Time's Mamoru Hosoda. The film will be released in 2011.

The final announcement was the licensing of Hideaki Anno's Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance, which will be released in 2011. It was hinted that the film will have a theatrical run. Sheehan also noted that they'd love to keep the cast intact but can't speak to it at this point.

Morris and Sheehan moved into the Q&A after listing what not to ask about:

  • New shows not yet licensed
  • Old shows not yet licensed
  • New episodes for a show already licensed
  • What shows they are looking to license
  • What agencies the voice actors use
  • Dub cast for newly-announced shows
  • Laura Bailey's phone number

Sheehan confirmed that Funimation does not have Blu-Ray rights to Birdy the Mighty, which they have been releasing on DVD. Funimation has no specific plans for streaming on the iPad or iPhone (beyond what's available via YouTube), but it's something they'd like to do. Morris confirmed that the music rights for the Eden of the East opening, sung by Oasis, could only be acquired for the first episode; subsequent episodes will not have the original opening song attached.

When asked about the S.A.V.E. line, Sheehan noted that contracts for anime licenses sometimes preclude lowering the show's price beyond a specified point. Funimation marketing director Lance Heiskell confirmed this and added that the S.A.V.E. line is generally a way to re-release shows four to five years after their original North American release.

Sheehan also indicated that Sgt. Frog has been performing well. It was also confirmed that there will be a theatrical release for Summer Wars as well as Evangelion 2.22.

Heiskel indicated to ANN during the Q&A that they will be re-branding the FUNimation Channel in the next couple of months. He also confirmed that Funimation has acquired both the Blu-Ray and DVD rights to Evangelion 2.22.

The Dragon Box has also been performing well, said Morris. Sheehan added that they had tailored the release to a smaller number of hardcore fans rather than the larger numbers expected for a standard release. Sheehan confirmed that Funimation does not have Blu-Ray rights for One Piece or Kanon. There will be a mix of the Hulu player and Funimation's own player on the new Funimation portal.

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