ITmedia Journalist Explains Why Anime Discs Are Not Selling
posted on by Kim Morrissy
ITmedia published an article on November 13 titled "Some Titles Have Even Halted Their Home Video Release... Is the Anime Disc Dying?" Author and journalist Tadashi Sudo highlights the decline of physical disc sales in Japan in recent years and argues that this has been caused by the popularity of video streaming services as well as the overabundance of new anime titles.
Sudo begins by highlighting an incident in September when the Phantom in the Twilight's production committee announced that the anime's Blu-ray sales were cancelled due to "various circumstances." Sudo speculates that the real reason was because the sales were disappointing.
The Phantom in the Twilight incident, Sudo argues, lies within a context of the physical disc's decline within Japan. The market shrunk over 30% between 2014 and 2016.
Sudo also points out that although late-night anime has traditionally relied on home video disc sales for funding, more anime is being made now than ever in the wake of the physical disc's decline. One reason, he argues, is because video streaming is largely replacing physical discs, even in the rental market. Another reason is because the production committees themselves are increasingly less reliant on disc sales; lucrative game companies such as Cygames have been pouring money into anime in order to strengthen their brands.
Sudo then shifts his attention to the North American market, pointing out that disc sales managed to recover from the crash in the 00s. He mentions his own personal experience attending Anime Expo 2018 visiting the Funimation and Sentai Filmworks booths and notes their popularity among American anime fans.
Sudo does not appear to think that physical discs are doomed in Japan, despite their rapid decline. "Discs can serve an archival purpose," he writes. "An issue with video streaming is the length of their contracts. Even on popular platforms, titles that don't get many views won't have their contract renewed. Titles can disappear overnight."
Discs have not lost their utility, Sudo argues. If you really treasure an anime, you should buy it on disc so that it can't disappear. Therefore, the real reason why sales are declining is because there is simply too much anime being released, and individual titles struggle to stand out. He cites statistics from the Digital Contents White Paper: Ten years ago, the market for late-night anime discs was worth approximately 83 billion yen (about US$730.5 million) across 155 titles. In 2016, it was worth 50 billion yen (US$440 million) across 266 titles.
Sudo predicts that there will be titles that won't have a home video release planned for them at all if the disc makers expect them to make a loss. This could run the risk of those titles becoming lost forever after their streaming deals have expired.
"How to preserve physical discs will become a vital issue for Japan's anime culture going forward," Sudo concludes.