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Amazon U.S. Launches Anime Strike Paid Streaming Service

posted on by Jennifer Sherman
Retailer holds exclusive streaming rights for Chi's Sweet Adventure, Onihei, The Great Passage, more

Update 2017.01.14 - Comments from Michael Paull, VP of Digital Video at Amazon, are available below.

Amazon U.S. launched the Anime Strike streaming service on Thursday as its first branded on-demand subscription service. The paid service is offering more than 1,000 television anime episodes and films to Amazon Prime members in the United States.

The service costs US$4.99 per month, and a seven-day free trial is available. Anime Strike's streaming anime are ad-free, and Amazon plans to update the channel every week. Some of the anime are streaming with English subtitles, and some are available with an English dub. The service is Amazon's newest in its line of about 100 Amazon Channels.

Amazon holds exclusive rights to stream anime such as Chi's Sweet Adventure, Onihei, The Great Passage, ViVid Strike!, Shin-chan Spin-off vol.1 Aliens vs. Shinnosuke, and Scum's Wish on the service in the United States. Amazon U.S. posted placeholder pages for these anime for its Amazon Prime Video service earlier this week.

The service is streaming episodes of television anime such as Scum's Wish and Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga the same day that they premiere on television in Japan. Amazon Strike is also streaming a variety of older anime titles including Akira, Paprika, Akame ga KILL!, Btooom!, and Death Note.

Michael Paull, Amazon's vice president of digital video and head of Amazon Channels, said, “With anime in particular, there's a strong, passionate audience that is underserved by traditional pay TV.” Paull revealed that Amazon plans to launch more branded on-demand subscription services in the coming months.

Amazon U.S. previously confirmed with ANN last October that its Amazon Prime Video service will stream The Great Passage, ViVid Strike!, and Chi's Sweet Adventure anime series. The company told ANN that it "sometimes [releases] programming at different times in different countries."

Amazon U.K.'s Prime Video service is currently streaming The Great Passage, ViVid Strike!, and Chi's Sweet Adventure.

Amazon had announced in March that it had signed a deal with Fuji TV to exclusively stream series from Fuji TV's Noitamina programming block going forward. Amazon U.S.'s Prime Video service streamed the previous two series on that programming block — Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress and Battery the Animation — with new episodes added near simultaneously to the Japanese air time and simultaneously with the stream on Amazon Japan's Prime Video service.

We had the opportunity to speak with Michael Paull, VP of Digital Video at Amazon, about this new venture.

MICHAEL PAULL, VP DIGITAL VIDEO AT AMAZON: First, a little history on Amazon Channels. We launched it in December 2015, a little over a year ago. The goal was to offer a complete over-the-top video solution for our customers, by providing our customers with a broad and deep selection of the best programming, all in one experience. At launch we were at about 30 channels and services, now we're over 100, including HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, PBS Kids, and now Anime Strike.

It's the first branded SVOD service on Anime Channels, and the first to create a curated set of programming that we'd make available to the passionate community of anime fans. There's a deep library of classic and newly-released titles, selected by our programming team, including great programming like Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers, Scum's Wish, The Great Passage, and Blue Exorcist. We're excited about the offering – we're just getting started. We plan to refresh the programming on a regular basis, and grow it. Typical for Amazon, we launch services, get feedback from our customers, and we continue to iterate and improve.

Zac Bertschy, ANN: How'd you come up with the name Anime Strike?

We went through the process of thinking about what kind of offering we were making available, then based on the data we had, and talking with our customers, we came up with a programming grid and an overall vision for the channel. Based on that, we did a bunch of research and focus groups,  looked at a variety of different names and Anime Strike was the one we liked the best.

What went into the decision to make this a premium channel with a $5 surcharge rather than folding the content in with the standard Amazon Prime subscription? Why is $5 extra to watch anime on Amazon?

Well, the definition of TV has changed a lot over the last couple years. At the highest level, there's increased customer choice with the growth of on-demand programming and the proliferation of channels and ways to get those channels. It's become all about bringing customers what they want to watch, when and where they want to watch it. That's what we've done with Anime Strike. There's a passionate group of fans who would love to have anime content all in one place, and to do that made sense – to create a separate, dedicated channel. There's much more anime content available as part of the subscription than what can be found in Prime Video, which is similar to other channels like HBO, or PBS Kids for example.

As I'm sure you're aware, the fan community is very much behind the idea of having anime “all in one place” – this decision splinters the content further, making it so fans have to go to yet another location and pay another subscription fee to get access to your exclusives if they want to keep up with the entire anime season. Was there something preventing the creation of a “Crunchyroll Channel” or a “FUNimation Channel” in the same way you provide access to the HBO catalog?

The decision really came from the fact that we knew there was an interest in this programming from a passionate viewerbase. With regard to the other services, our vision for Amazon Channels is to have a complete selection of over-the-top video channels and services. And the really awesome part about Amazon Channels is, as you mentioned – as anime fans want – we provide it all in one unified experience. We'd welcome any anime service on our platform.

I wanted to ask about The Great Passage, and what your release strategy for that show says about the future. A lot of fans were a little dismayed last season when Amazon licensed The Great Passage and then didn't make it available in America during the season, which excluded American fans from being part of the conversation around that show as it was airing. As I'm sure you know, that's incredibly important to the fan community, that's where the engagement is, in the new season. The Great Passage was largely overlooked last season because Amazon had it and didn't make it available – moving forward, will we have access to all of your new titles when they air?

Well, licensing and rights across various territories is complicated and I can't say anything “always or never will happen”. I can say The Great Passage is part of this service now. Unforeseen circumstances can't be accounted for, but the goal is to provide all of our simulcast shows day and date.

How do you select which shows to simulcast? What makes a show good for Anime Strike?

I have a programming team spending a lot of time over the past year, thinking about anime, thinking about what would be appealing to our customers. We have great data from our customers, and the Prime Video service. We looked at a ton of data, both qualitative and quantitative, to come to our decisions.

Can you characterize how anime performed on Amazon Prime before the launch of Anime Strike, and can you characterize Amazon's attitude toward anime programming before now?

What I can characterize is our perspective on the programming for Anime Strike, which is that it's very important and we're going to invest heavily in providing great programming for this channel.

There have been some comments about the video compression quality on Amazon's anime streams. Have you looked into that?

Anime Strike uses the same player as the rest of our Amazon Video services – if people have specific examples where they had issues with the player, where the video quality was not up to their expectations, I would love to get that information. We'll follow up directly.

Right now Anime Strike is limited to the United States – are there plans to expand beyond that, globally, and do you have plans to subtitle your shows in languages other than English?

I don't have any announcements to make on that at this time.

Looking to the future, the Spring season is only a few months away – can we expect to see more of the Spring 2017 season simulcast on Anime Strike?

You can expect to see the programming on Anime Strike improve and increase as we go on. We're really excited about what we're going to offer to our customers. This is day one - we're going to keep improving it and iterating on it.

Thanks to Brianna Gallagher for the news tip.

Source: Variety (Todd Spangler)

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