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ANN Chat: Chris Nelson, Anime Network Programming Director

by George Phillips,
Chris Nelson, the programming director at The Anime Network (TAN), decided to visit #animenewsnetwork on WorldIRC and give Anime News Network readers a chance to ask questions about TAN's new linear channel. Although the focus of the discussion was on the linear channel, Chris was happy to answer questions related to the video on demand (VOD) version of the Anime Network. This chat was the launch event for Anime News Network's chat channel.

<Cookie3> First question is, can you tell us what you do at Anime Network? What processes are involved with your job?
<ChrisNelson> In addition to scheduling the network, I've been involved in helping to design the look and feel of the channel.

<Cookie3> Ok. How does the selection of programming differ between video on demand and the linear network?
<ChrisNelson> well, on VOD we're basically programming a hard drive.
<ChrisNelson> with each individual cable company, we have different contracts which call for different amounts of content and different refresh rates.
<ChrisNelson> On the linear channel, we're trying to create a television environment that takes the viewer through a day and week.
<ChrisNelson> We've broken the linear channel up into several key programming blocks, which feature new episodes during prime time.

<Cookie3> Can you give us an example of a programming block?
<ChrisNelson> ON Monday nights, we've got "Giant Robots" which I'm sure you guys can figure out ; )
<ChrisNelson> Tuesdays and Fridays are Action Zone, with shows like Noir, Saiyuki, Samurai X, etc.
<ChrisNelson> Wednesdays is Girl Power with Chobits, Kaleidostar, Azumanga Daioh, etc.
<ChrisNelson> Every week day in the afternoon, we've got Old School which features Robotech and G force and Aura Battler Dunbine.
<ChrisNelson> Late nights, its Super Happy Funtime, which has Excel Saga, Golden Boy, Steel Angel Kurumi, Colorful and others.

<Cookie3> (from v1cious) How do you plan to show completely uncensored anime? Will this be a premium channel?
<ChrisNelson> This is not a premium channel. We're a digital cable, ad supported channel.
<ChrisNelson> We are not pro censorship at Anime Network.

<Cookie3> (from Vekou) What are your highest-rated shows?
<Cookie3> I assume, on both the VoD channel and the linear channel, even though it's new.
<ChrisNelson> Of all time, Eva is number one.
<ChrisNelson> Samurai X, Golden Boy, Full Metal Panic! and Colorful have all done extremely well on VOD.
<ChrisNelson> We haven't gotten ratings yet on the linear channel.

<Cookie3> (from Okina_chair) Will TAN be coming to Canada in the future?
<ChrisNelson> We've done two VOD deals with Shaw and Rogers in Canada currently.
<ChrisNelson> Canadian broadcast has transmission rules, and we've had some discussions but nothing firm as of yet.

<Tempest> While Cookie brings the next question, I'd like to point out that there's trailers for some of the blocks he mentioned available online. Action zone: http://www.theanimenetwork.com/webvideos/Action%20Zone%20web.mov and Giant Robots: http://www.theanimenetwork.com/webvideos/Giant%20Robots%20web.mov
<Tempest> TAN prepared a bunch of online trailers for us to show you tonight :-)
<ChrisNelson> Thanks tempest! yeah, check out the Quicktimes, we'd love to get some feedback.

<Cookie3> (from LightNightmare148) Now that the Anime Network is linear, are there any plans to do away with the Video On Demand service?
<ChrisNelson> NO way. VOD will continue to be a part of the Anime Network.

<Cookie3> (from Vaevictus_ScothRox) Will the Anime Network be showing dubs and subs? Or just one or the other only?
<ChrisNelson> Currently, we've only aired dubbed programming.
<ChrisNelson> It's been hard enough to convince the major cable companies that there is an audience for anime, and foreign language programming scares them off.
<ChrisNelson> We want to serve our audience though, so if you guys want subtitled programming you need to let us know at [email protected].

<Cookie3> (from AnimeFreak08) Do you plan on having anime movie days?
<ChrisNelson> Yeah, Sundays, starting in September are going to be filled with anime and live action features. done
<Cookie3> In a similar vein... (from DiSpy) Will the Anime Network be showing more Shoujo anime in the future?
<ChrisNelson> yeah, there's going to be more like DNAngel, Gravitation. Eventually, the ratings will be the final judge of the balance of programming.
<ChrisNelson> most shoujo shows will be featured in the Girl Power block.

<Cookie3> (from quite a few people) Will TAN be expanding to include anime from other companies, such as FUNimation and Bandai?
<ChrisNelson> Yes, we've been in discussion with ALL of the anime distributors.
<ChrisNelson> We want to have the best line up on tv.

<Cookie3> (from a number of people) When will TAN be on Cox Communications, Adelphia, Time-Warner and various other cable companies and satellite providers. And, what can we do to help bring TAN to our local cable?
<ChrisNelson> Adelphia is starting to roll out VOD.
<ChrisNelson> I can't say anything, but we've been talking to Cox.
<ChrisNelson> : )
<ChrisNelson> The best way to get anime network is to let your cable or satellite provider know that you want the Anime Network.
<ChrisNelson> We're on VOD across the country on Time Warner and are working on a linear deal. Again call your cable operator!

<Tempest> While Cookie's working up the next question, here's some Haiku from TAN: http://www.theanimenetwork.com/webvideos/haiku%20web.mov I believe this was something one of your viewers sent in as part of a contest, right Chris?
<ChrisNelson> Yeah, anime haiku is one of the many ways we're trying to get our viewers involved in the network.
<ChrisNelson> send us an anime related haiku to [email protected], and if we like it, we'll put it on air, along with your name and home town.
<ChrisNelson> I think there's some more video up there as well...

<Cookie3> Let's go back and touch on a few follow-up questions from earlier responses.
<Cookie3> (from LightNightmare148) What is the most successful genre block right now?
<ChrisNelson> Giant Robots.

<Cookie3> (from Kiggy) Does your Live Action block include Ultraman?
<ChrisNelson> Not right now, I wish.
<ChrisNelson> do you have the tv rights to it?

<Cookie3> (from Pepperidge) Do you plan to focus on mainstream prospective anime customers, or hardcore fans who already buy your DVDs anyway?
<ChrisNelson> Well the economics of a tv channel dictate that we have to reach out and broaden the audience.
<ChrisNelson> we want to keep the hardcore happy, but feel as though our job is to create new anime fans. done.
<Cookie3> (from Tim of AnimeOnTV) What about other Asian anime, such as Korean animation? Does TAN have any plans to include those in its lineup?
<ChrisNelson> Currently, we have Bast of Syndrome on the Action Zone block. I think it's fair to say we might see more in the future.

<Tempest> And here's another block trailer for Super Happy Funtime: http://www.theanimenetwork.com/webvideos/SHFT%20web.mov
<Tempest> Who came up with that name???
<AllenDivers> hehe.. that trailer's naughty
<ChrisNelson> I've got a great group of folks here that work with me. we collectively came up with it.
<ChrisNelson> hope you like it ; )

<Cookie3> (from tcov) Will you be showing anime on the Anime Network that wouldn't be available on DVD until later on?
<ChrisNelson> yes. we've got some very exciting plans in that regard.
<Cookie3> Anything you can announce here? :)
<ChrisNelson> currently Get Backers and Chrono Crusade are slated to debut on the network before they street.

<Cookie3> Here's a slightly tangential question, but I think it's an interesting one:
<Cookie3> (from wcy2003) What kind of college degree should you pursue for a career in the anime industry?
<Cookie3> I suppose, specifically with regard to the Anime Network; what kinds of people are you looking for, and are you hiring?
<ChrisNelson> I personally have a liberal arts degree. I think the most important thing is learning how to think creatively and communicate.
<ChrisNelson> Japanese sure wouldn't hurt :)

<Tempest> This is my personal favorite from the trailers you guys have: http://www.theanimenetwork.com/webvideos/Invasion%20web.mov
<ChrisNelson> yeah, the invasion IDs are cool, huh? there is a series of 4 running right now.

<Cookie3> (from various people) How often will the block lineups change? Will you be repeating shows, and if so, how often?
<ChrisNelson> We'll be programming a mix of new shows and repeats of our hit series.
<ChrisNelson> We'll definitely do repeats, but hopefully not as often as some of our friends in the tv business ; )

<Cookie3> (from Cassandra) What types of commercials will air on the linear network? Ads geared more towards anime fans, or mainstream ads (Coke, Pepsi, etc.)?
<ChrisNelson> I think you'll see a mix of specific, anime targeted ads with other mainstream companies who are trying to reach a cool, young audience.

<Cookie3> Next up... (from JustJon) Will TAN have any shows other than anime, i.e. shows about anime or Japanese culture?
<ChrisNelson> Yes. I think that Japanese youth culture is something that anime fans would want to see on the network.
<ChrisNelson> currently, we're running the Bento Beat Box show, in conjunction with Tofu Records and Sony Music Japan, showing J-Pop, J-Rock and J-Hop music videos.

<Cookie3> (from GeorgeManley) Will TAN be running "Behind the Scenes" shows, such as Actor/Director/Producer interviews and other specials?
<ChrisNelson> we don't have any specific plans as such currently. But that certainly doesn't seem out of the question.
<ChrisNelson> is that something you guys would want to see?

<Cookie3> (from various people) Will TAN ever be a part of "basic" cable, rather than just digital cable?
<ChrisNelson> there's virtually no more "basic" cable channel space available. However, analog cable will in the near future, be a thing of the past.
<ChrisNelson> the future is digital, baby.

<Tempest> Here's a long video (13.7 megs, 90 seconds).
<Tempest> Its "The Anime Network Launch Sequence"
<Tempest> http://www.theanimenetwork.com/webvideos/Launch%20sequence%20web.mov
<ChrisNelson> the launch sequence was produced entirely in house at ANHQ here in Houston , Texas.
<AllenDivers> that sequence scared me the first time I saw it.. the network had just gone up and they started a feed into our offices.. that little sequence came up and I thought someone fell asleep at the wheel and the "record" was skipping so to speak
<ChrisNelson> Wanted to let everyone know that we're going to be launching an entirely revamped website very soon, so keep checking www.theanimenetwork.com.
<ChrisNelson> seriously, if you want to see Anime Network in your town, we need your support.
<ChrisNelson> We're looking for a few good men and women to serve as anime network field operatives. Send an email to [email protected], and we'll fill you in on the details.
<ChrisNelson> and if you want the anime network in your town, CALL YOUR CABLE OR SATELLITE PROVIDER.

<Cookie3> (from wcy2003) In the fashion that Cartoon network has done, will you be funding or showing original works or American anime-like creations?
<ChrisNelson> We'll be creating original programming, but I don't know if we're comfortable with "anime like' programming.
<ChrisNelson> we're the anime network, not a cartoon channel.
<Cookie3> (from Shiki) Are there any plans for holiday-themed specials, such as Christmas, spring or other Specials?
<ChrisNelson> yeah, we'll be doing programming stunts.
<AllenDivers> evil kenivil style stunts?
<ChrisNelson> We're going to be debuting a new block called "fan service" which will let the viewers decide the programming. What would you guys suggest for Christmas programming?

<Tempest> Hmm, can you tell us more about the original content? Specifically or generally....
<ChrisNelson> Generally, it will be incredibly cool. Specifically, not really : ) done
<Cookie3> Next Question: (from LightNightmare148) What percentage of the US has TAN?
<ChrisNelson> Not nearly enough.
<ChrisNelson> We're available in over half of the households which have VOD nationwide, but we're just getting started with the linear network.
<ChrisNelson> again, call your cable provider! tell your friends! demand your anime network!

<Tempest> http://www.theanimenetwork.com/webvideos/DNA%20robot%20web.mov and http://www.theanimenetwork.com/webvideos/gravion%20GR%20menu%20web.mov More Robot stuff.

<Cookie3> (from various people) For those with VoD, should we also be calling our companies to get the linear channel, or will it be added automatically?
<ChrisNelson> Absolutely. Especially you guys with VOD. Tell them that VOD is not enough. You want 24 hour Anime Network.
<ChrisNelson> Your voice really matters and your vote counts. Hearing from a customer is a big thing for the cable companies. If you want anime network 24/7 you need to let them know.

<Cookie3> (from Zac Bertschy of Anime Insider) How was it determined that a linear anime cable channel - not a cheap proposition - would be commercially viable in the US?
<ChrisNelson> ADVision, Inc. has a long history of believing in the power of the anime market in the US.
<ChrisNelson> There was a lot of research that went into the decision, but at the bottom line is we believe in the power of anime.

<Cookie3> (from Proman) What do you think about Funimation's plans to launch its own 24-hour anime network? Do you think there's market for two channels devoted exclusively to anime?
<ChrisNelson> I saw that they announced that they're now thinking about a channel. I wouldn't want to be the person walking in to a cable company headquarters telling them that they needed another Anime channel.
<ChrisNelson> we've been working on Anime Network for several years and it's hard work. I wish them luck.

<Tempest> I'm almost out of video clips, here's the first of a pair of TAN logo vids that are pretty cool.
<Tempest> http://www.theanimenetwork.com/webvideos/DNA%20robot%20web.mov
<Tempest> BTW, if anyone can't view these vids right now, they will be linked to from the chat transcript when its posted, and we'll see what we can do about getting them in other formats...

<Cookie3> Ok, next question: (from SakechanBD) When you say you're doing "Giant Robot" day, how are you going to be airing the episodes? Will it be one episode of a given show, with the next episode airing the week after that? Or will there be chunks of shows airing at a time? Will the shows be repeated during that day, in case someone misses an earlier showing?
<ChrisNelson> Most series are running at two episodes per week.
<ChrisNelson> after their first run, they are repeated once later that night, and then again the following morning.
<ChrisNelson> Giant Robots shows air Monday and Thursday nights.

<Tempest> Here's the second logo: http://www.theanimenetwork.com/webvideos/Perfect%20Sessions%20web.mov
<ChrisNelson> Perfect Sessions is another Anime network signature block, which will show back to back to back episodes of a single series, or OVAs in their entirety.

<Cookie3> (from various people) Are there plans to run anime "marathons", or multiple episodes of a single anime in one day?
<ChrisNelson> we'll definitely look at running some programming marathons as well.

<Cookie3> (from LightNightmare148) Are you planning to have mascots for each block? (e.g. Tom on Toonami)?
<ChrisNelson> each block will have it's own audio and graphic identity. as for mascots, we'll see. we are a channel for grown ups.

<Cookie3> (from Mr_Paper) Looking over this month's lineup and the previous month's line ups, will Anime Network focus on showing more recent series or will older series (from, say, the mid 80's) be broadcast as well?
<ChrisNelson> It's going to be a healthy mix of both.
<ChrisNelson> Prime time will be dedicated to primarily new series.
<ChrisNelson> the old school block in the afternoon will keep the golden age of anime alive.

<Tempest> Time for a vid while Cookie looks I think
<Tempest> This is actually the last one I have
<Tempest> http://www.theanimenetwork.com/webvideos/Girl%20Power%20web.mov
<Tempest> Its the Girl Power eye catch I believe
<ChrisNelson> Girl Power rules! the song is by a great Japanese band named Polysics. Check them out.

<Cookie3> (from DiSpy) The titles you listed in your "Girl Power" block are all Shonen titles (the main target audience of all those are boys), I'd like to know if you have any plans to cater to the Shoujo fans (with titles who's main audience are girls). Is this something you will be looking into, or do you plan on keeping the network more "guy" oriented since they are a bigger audience?
<ChrisNelson> Look out for Gravitation! We hope to have a healthy mix of all genders in the anime network audience!

<Cookie3> (from an anonymous coward) If TAN decided to show things like Super Milk-chan, would they show the original Japanese episodes, or the modified shows, like what ADV did with their 100% Milk-Chan Show?
<ChrisNelson> We're looking at both right now for the network. Which would you rather see first?
<ChrisNelson> We'll likely wind up airing both versions on the network, and see which does better with the viewers.

<Tempest> A questions about the TAN website (which you mentioned earlier). Someone asked if you could get your tech guys to put videos on the site in format other than QT.
<Tempest> Because some people (Linux users) have problems with QT.
<ChrisNelson> You guys want windows media player? real player? We hustled to get some clips up, so they were only in QuickTime. We'll talk to Christopher and post some in windows media player soon.

<Cookie3> (from the same anonymous coward) Besides shows like Gravitation, will there be other, more "traditional" shoujo shows, like magical girl shows (ala Wedding Peach) or romances (Like Marmalade Boy)?
<ChrisNelson> Wedding peach will be on the network.
<ChrisNelson> Pretear is running.
<ChrisNelson> If the fans demand it, we'll work on bringing more shoujo titles to the network. at the end of the day, the ratings will tell us what the majority of our viewers want to watch.

<Cookie3> okay, and now for a few quick casual questions..
<Cookie3> (from JustJon) What anime series/movies do you, personally, like?
<Cookie3> and (from UberTai) What show would you most like to appear on TAN?
<ChrisNelson> I love Evangelion. Also enjoyed Full Metal Panic! tremendously.
<ChrisNelson> I'd like to air Naruto, I hear the 100s of fans like it better than sex!
<ChrisNelson> I'd like to have ALL of the anime on Anime Network!

<Cookie3> Ah, one last question before the end:
<Cookie3> (same anonymous coward) Some shows like Initial D have been drastically changed for their English-language tracks. If you showed something along those veins, would you prefer to show the changed dub version... or the unmodified sub? Or avoid shows like that altogether?
<ChrisNelson> Shows that have aired on Anime Network have not been drastically changed for the dub version. ADV has a long history of history of being respectful to Japanese creators, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

<Cookie3> Chris, thank you very much for your time here. It's been a pleasure chatting with you.
<Cookie3> Likewise, thank you Avatar and Allen, for stopping by.
<AllenDivers> always happy to support the ADV family :-)
<AllenDivers> and of course my old stomping crew, the ANN folks :-)
<ChrisNelson> it's been great to talk with you guys. I'd be happy to do it again sometime soon. we're counting on you guys to help get the word out.
<ChrisNelson> Anime Network wants to be a network that the fans are proud of. And we want to bring more people to the anime party!
<Tempest> Thanks. As long as people want to read about anime on TV (and they do!) we'll keep talking about it.
<ChrisNelson> check anime news network and www.theanimenetwork.com soon for our new updated, content heavy, fan friendly website!
<ChrisNelson> thanks for all the great questions!
<SakechanBD> Also, if everyone looks at the TAN website, you'll see a box that asks you where you want the Anime Network.
<Cookie3> I'd also like to thank everyone who stopped by this evening, and to everyone who asked questions.
<SakechanBD> If you can't find a way to contact your local cable provider, drop a mention of your town in that box.

This is a modified log of the original chat. Some spelling errors and typos have been corrected, and standard IRC messages (join/part/quit, etc) have been removed, with spaces added between each set of questions and answers. Colors and bolding have been added for ease of spotting questions and answers.

This chat occurred on 8/11/2004, from 9pm-10:47pm EST (GMT-5) in Anime News Network's chat channel. Click here for more information.

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