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alabaster

Guest Journal

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I'm going to try something here, where I blog a bit -- to the extent that I can -- about goings-on in the world of guests, industry, and press.

----- April 2010 --------------------

I've recently returned from Tokyo, and then San Francisco. I was in Tokyo for Tokyo Anime Faire, and I was in SF primarily for a wedding and a bit of vacation.

Tokyo's always a busy trip: aside from the participation in the festival itself -- which entails all the things having a booth usually entails (setup, staffing, shipping, materials, etc.) -- my main goals there are to maintain existing business and personal relationships, and to build new ones. That means that, for me, the week is spent in a whirlwind of meetings.

Our friends at Madhouse have moved to a new office -- their old one, in former Disney Japan office space that they outgrew years ago, was in the same building as American Express and thus an incredibly secure building -- and part of our itinerary included a visit to the new digs. I like them -- they're much cleaner, more open, and less stuffy and smokey (there is a smoker's lounge with its own filtration system, and that helps considerably). When you enter, there's a nice kitchen/break room area to your left, a row of conference and screening rooms ahead and to the right, and along the corridor, a case full of awards. I got to hold the Japanese equivalent of an Oscar. Which, amusingly, is smaller than the typical bowling trophy. It's stunning how many awards Madhouse has won. Mr Maruyama's office is a little bigger, I think, but just as cluttered as the old one. Unfortunately I didn't get to meet his dog, but we saw the bed he keeps in the office for it. And most of his astounding and vast collection of Stitch stuff has been designated as "complete" and resides on shelves nearby. (A few pieces, like the Otakon Staffer Stitch we made for him, he keeps at home.) As is usually the case for studio visits, most of the stuff we saw there, I can't tell you about, other than to say it's amazing how much good stuff Madhouse puts out, and even in these tough economic times, they're still producing good stuff.

Meanwhile, some of our team went to a Morning Musume concert, and others had some other engagements that you'll hear about soon. These are awesome opportunities, but (a) you're basically on duty the whole time, which can hamper your enjoyment of the show, (:D venues are NOT made for oversized American butts, and our team height ranges from 5'9 to 6'5. Still, the opportunity to network is not to be missed.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were pretty much all about meetings and prep work. We brought a few people so we wouldn't miss out on opportunities, and my Relations team were well represented, with myself, my assistant Jeff Lee, and my music guy Jeff Kleist on board. Kleist's job was to get us meetings with music industry folks and follow up with existing contacts, while Jeff Lee was essentially there to shadow both of us. Sean and Alice were busy too, dealing with the details of our booth (there were....complications) or coming with me to various meetings.

Business-only days are Thursday and Friday, typically, and they're the main reason we go to TAF -- the crowd is all people who work in the industry, and that means lots of opportunities to make connections and catch up with folks. (While the booth, and most of the team, stayed on for the INSANE public days, I had a wedding to attend in SF and had to go back Saturday.)

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The tone of many of our meetings with studios and big companies that produce anime was a bit of a surprise, though in retrospect it shouldn't have been. Once introductions (or reintroductions) and other politeness had been exchanged, the discussions had similar topics throughout. They basically can't understand why the popularity continues to grow, while the revenues keep going down, in the US market. We've been straight with them about the challenges we see, and we relay the concerns so often expressed on our forums: the consumers want their fix now, and they would prefer it to be free. When they DO buy DVDs and CDs, they want the same product as the Japanese do, only with subtitltes and/or dub tracks -- not a crippled version. And we told them that the best way to capture and keep attention is to keep taking creative risks, and not just keep chasing last year's hits. (How many post-Friends sitcoms where there that tried to copy that formula?) We advocated earlier partnerships to reduce the lead time it takes to get a show to the US -- MONSTER, for example, is a 2006 release that's just airing in the US years later. It's a good show, but the hardcore fans saw it within a year of when it aired in Tokyo -- the hardest core consumers aren't going to wait that long. The importance of legitimate online distribution has gone WAY up, but TV is still important (a show on TV will do twice as many sales as one that isn't), and they need to position themselves to respond to a changing market. The recession won't end suddenly,

I think after four or five years of these discussions, they're finally hearing that and internalizing it, but it represents a pretty important fundamental shift. There is a bit of desperation in their moves now, but at least there is finally recognition of the problem. And while we're talking to very senior-level people in many cases, they're still fighting a battle against their own entrenched corporate culture. Possibly because of the power of tradition, Japanese businesses can be pretty slow to react to change, and more so when there are half a dozen partners involved in every project.

On the other hand, we are seeing more companies taking a more direct hand in their US operations. Aniplex, for example, has begun promoting, even distributing, properties directly, as of last year. Other companies will be joining them soon. And I think that's good, in a way, because the more direct experience these Japanese companies have in the US market the better their decisions will be. (Whereas before they had to rely on the word of a handful of industry buyers for their sense of how the US market was working.)

So the good news, in the end, is that they're looking to work with us to reach our membership.

On the music side, the management and label folks we spoke to had similar worries about sales vs "fanbase". iTunes is the way to go there, along with direct promotion. That side is slightly more promising, because for us it's about making connections and building trust -- which is critical to Otakon's leadership role. We have a good reputation for keeping our word, and that's golden currency. A deal with a reliable, known entity is much less risky than a more lucrative deal where the other party is a relative unknown. We're getting approached by people with a 2-year lead time in some cases. But at least they no longer complain that US customers won't shell out $40 for each record album on CD.

Make no mistake, everyone's hurting, financially. Some of the studios are barely holding on. I've been going to TAF since 2005 and I've NEVER seen it look this empty -- but on the other hand, that seems to be forcing some overdue changes, and ultimately it may be a positive thing. Certainly TAF's own numbers back up the notion that the fan base hasn't gone away (they set attendance records on the public days), but the trick -- on either side of the pond -- is to figure out how to make anime and music profitable enough to keep making them. This problem started long before the economic downturn, and it is partially grounded in the difference between the Japanese hardcore otaku market (who compete to spend MORE money on their beloved shows) and the casual US fandom (who don't seem to want to pay for anything).

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Thoughtful. I appreciate these posts.

On the other hand, we are seeing more companies taking a more direct hand in their US operations. Aniplex, for example, has begun promoting, even distributing, properties directly, as of last year. Other companies will be joining them soon. And I think that's good, in a way, because the more direct experience these Japanese companies have in the US market the better their decisions will be. (Whereas before they had to rely on the word of a handful of industry buyers for their sense of how the US market was working.)

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Agreed, I really like hearing about this, too. At the very least, it gives some insight to those who really don't understand what goes into this industry. Very thought-provoking.

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Thoughtful. I appreciate these posts.

On the other hand, we are seeing more companies taking a more direct hand in their US operations. Aniplex, for example, has begun promoting, even distributing, properties directly, as of last year. Other companies will be joining them soon. And I think that's good, in a way, because the more direct experience these Japanese companies have in the US market the better their decisions will be. (Whereas before they had to rely on the word of a handful of industry buyers for their sense of how the US market was working.)

Woo. Wonder if this will pan out in the long run. It seems that Aniplex is doing some stuff ahead of the curve, but you gotta wonder how things are working out for them.

Obviously I can't name names, but if you're interested in this stuff you'll probably hear more from ANN and other news sources in the coming month. The reasons they're doing it are complex, but understandable -- given that the US distribution market relies on (ever shrinking) DVD sales to stay afloat. They all plan to use Funimation, Bandai, Viz, and the remaining smaller players like ADV's replacement and Manga Entertainment.

Aniplex has some forward-thinking folks in their international marketing biz -- we've known some of them for quite a few years. But they've also got slightly deeper pockets because they have some big successes right now. They're pieces of Sony, and they do FMA, Bleach, and Naruto -- some of the most successful shows to come across in the past decade. They also handle some movies, like Paprika. You may remember them bringing Yamamoto-san to Otakon last year, as well.

One of the things we've repeatedly said to them (being "anyone in the industry who will listen") is that if there is a formula for success, it is this:

1. Engaging the fans directly matters. There are a handful of major players who routinely visit US conventions and engage directly with the fan base -- and as a result, they internalize a lot of what the audience responds to. And US fans are more likely to support shows that they perceive have made an effort to include them.

2. Don't chase last year's fads or market trends -- just make good shows and trust them to find an audience. (If you can't tell whether a show is going to be good, that's where step 1 comes in handy.)

3. Don't confuse the fight against piracy and bootleggers with the evolution of new ways to watch anime. US consumers want anime to be as easy for them to watch as it is for the intended Japanese audience -- or as easy as it is to catch the newest episode of Ben 10. If you want to figure out how to make money off that huge fanbase, you have to understand them. Fewer hard-core otaku in Japan are willing to pay $50 for a single DVD with two episodes, and the number of folks in the US willing to do so can probably be counted on one hand. That model is dead, or at least dying, and you're left with a huge demand for digital, which the establishment on both sides resisted way too long. Take risks and get your stuff out where it can be seen, as quickly and cleanly as possible.

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Thoughtful. I appreciate these posts.

On the other hand, we are seeing more companies taking a more direct hand in their US operations. Aniplex, for example, has begun promoting, even distributing, properties directly, as of last year. Other companies will be joining them soon. And I think that's good, in a way, because the more direct experience these Japanese companies have in the US market the better their decisions will be. (Whereas before they had to rely on the word of a handful of industry buyers for their sense of how the US market was working.)

Woo. Wonder if this will pan out in the long run. It seems that Aniplex is doing some stuff ahead of the curve, but you gotta wonder how things are working out for them.

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Right -- hence the note TV being important. But the way TV works is that the station pays to air the show, and then makes money by selling commercial time during that show. There isn't a lot of spare cash for what folks consider to be risky ventures -- and unless a property's proven, it's a hard sell to, say, CN these days. Cartoon Network has a backlog of cheap stoner crap and Family Guy reruns that they *know* will draw twice as much as a popular anime like Bleach. (Those numbers they post during the bumps are telling, and you can bet that everyone with a stake in the process is paying attention to them.) And unfortunately, they have to pay for anime, whereas (hmm, let's pick shows I like rather than the stupid Tim & Eric crap that isn't even a cartoon)...Robot Chicken and Venture Bros are properties they have a real stake in and make money on. Much lower cost, much higher profit.

Sadly, during the boom years some of the Japanese side got spoiled by lavish spending on anime licenses, and it's taken them some time to figure out that, while Detective Conan is *h-u-g-e* back home, America didn't fall in love with it and the title simply isn't worth as much. (And, to be fair, they're still stinging from letting stuff go TOO cheaply eons ago.)

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Really interesting. I like hearing about this sort of thing. I constantly get into discussions with people and why they choose to download anime instead of buy it.

I mean, in my circle of friends, I usually buy anime and bring it over for a group of 4 more friends to watch. They like anime, but they dont buy it themselves, nor do they download it either. I have other friends who support the industry though. I can understand downloading some anime considering there is some that truthfully, will never come out over in the US. But I follow the rule that if you watch an anime and like it alot, if it gets released here, buy it. I know not everyone has the disposable income to do so, but everyone can at least buy SOMETHING. Im not rich or even middle class in some cases, but I still manage to have a growing anime collection.

I just think people download and dont think anything bad is going to happen and they will end up collapsing the product they love.

Either way, I like this blog idea. It's interesting and exciting to read.

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That was berry insightful. I too like this idea, and reading it seems to confirm how I feel about the industry as it is today. Yes, it's significantially down from the "boom" period, but the companies are finding ways to adapt--and survive. The stateside compaines however need to do better in not only working with the JP studios, but to reach out in as many viable platforms as possible, including broader TV outlets besides what we have now.

Other than that, it's a fact not every anime can be successful outside of Japan, but that doesn't mean folk need to cry over it. It's the same as how some folk enjoy some shows that aren't appealing to the masses...I can relate. Later folk.

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I blame Adult Swim's lack of advertising and poor times for their poor anime ratings overall! I hear Naruto is doing great things on Disney xd simply because its marketed and its in a decent timeframe!

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That was berry insightful. I too like this idea, and reading it seems to confirm how I feel about the industry as it is today. Yes, it's significantially down from the "boom" period, but the companies are finding ways to adapt--and survive. The stateside compaines however need to do better in not only working with the JP studios, but to reach out in as many viable platforms as possible, including broader TV outlets besides what we have now.

Other than that, it's a fact not every anime can be successful outside of Japan, but that doesn't mean folk need to cry over it. It's the same as how some folk enjoy some shows that aren't appealing to the masses...I can relate. Later folk.

What, exactly, would you have the stateside folks do? All three already offer shows via online channels, legal downloads, and so forth. All of them are doing their best to sell stuff to TV programmers, and for the first time in what feels like eons, there is actually new anime coming to TV. (Monster and Macross Plus on SF, Kekkaishi coming to CN, etc.,) Anime is currently showing on:

Disney XD: Naruto

Cartoon Network: lots

SyFy: Monster, Macross

IFC: Monster

Chiller: Monster

Funimation Channel: Lots from Funi and Viz

The TV channels buy programs that they believe will help them generate ad revenue. The US distributors buy and localize programs that they believe the TV channels will buy, or that the consumers will buy on DVD, or that will generate ad revenue.

The reason that there isn't more anime on TV is that it (generally) doesn't sell enough commercial time to make it worth a stationbuying much of it beyond the known hits. If they're going to sell *more* commercial time during a rerun of Bebop than a new episode of (insert new show here), and it costs them more money to get that new thing, what incentive do they have to buy that new thing?

The US licensors have been dragging the Japanese side kicking and screaming into the modern era. They can't catch a break from their customers (who seem to find any excuse possible to avoid paying for content). Subtitled stuff is terrible at reaching a broader audience, so that means they have to dub it. Dubbing it cuts out part of the core audience, and more importantly it costs money to do decently. Those costs have to be paid for somewhere, by somebody. The US distributors have lost some major players (Geneon, ADV, CPM) lately, and the survivors have cut 15-20% of their workforce and slashed marketing budgets just to keep up operations. They've spent money on infrastructure and outreach and such. If people aren't buying the product, they cannot afford to keep doing that.

So again, what would you have them do?

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I blame Adult Swim's lack of advertising and poor times for their poor anime ratings overall! I hear Naruto is doing great things on Disney xd simply because its marketed and its in a decent timeframe!

You can blame AS if you like, but they've been pretty clear about why those programs, which used to air earlier, moved back. Because when they replaced them with mainstream shows like Family Guy, and stoner comedy crap, they sold more ads and thus made more money. The shows that air in the more favorable times are either drawing a bigger audience because they're mainstream, or they're more cost effective because they don't have to pay someone else to show them. Robot chicken costs a lot less to make than Naruto -- and they keep more of it.

(I love Robot Chicken, but that's beside the point.)

Old consumers were accustomed to paying for content (remember those "anime: crack is cheaper" bags? that was sooo true!), but newer consumers are not. And we can dance around the issue all we want and wish things were different, but if newer consumers aren't buying your product, you can't afford to keep making it. Instead, we get soapbox rants about "fansubs are higher video quality than the crap on hulu" and "I won't give Funimation my money because they made a choice I didn't like when they adapted an unrelated show".

And the Japanese side is worried that this attitude will be contagious.

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Wow. This just sounds like a massive Catch-22. And yet, con attendance still grows every year. It's baffling to say the least, since there are a huge number of anime fans today that there weren't even just a few years ago, but the anime industry itself is tripping over its own feet trying to find a way to make money.

Honestly, I feel that a lot of anime fans don't have all that money to spend. For example, I would love more than anything to buy DVDs for some of my favorite series like FLCL, Gurren Lagann, and Samurai Champloo, but the prices for such DVDs are just way too high; not to mention the box sets for said series (as well as many others) meeting *excruciating* numbers from about $50-$70. If they would just lower the prices a bit, I'm sure the revenue earned would balance with the cost easily.

Plus, with that increase in DVD sales, the demand for anime on television may directly increase. Therefore, the channels that do show anime regularly and possibly new channels would be more open to purchasing anime for their network.

It's just a theory, but I thought I may as well put my own thoughts out there. It's probably not that simple, but decreasing pricing would certainly open people in general more to the idea of purchasing their anime rather than stealing it from the Internet in my opinion. At least, I know *I* would buy DVDs if that were the case, and I'm sure there are others who think the same way.

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The economic slump certainly matters. But more and more, it's that "pay to watch" has a hell of a time competing with "watch for free".

And the "I don't have money" argument simply doesn't fly, I'm afraid. Everyone would LOVE to buy more than they do, if they could afford it. People who knock back 2 red bulls (or a starbucks coffee, or three sodas) a day could choose, instead, to buy an anime disc every week for roughly the same amount.

The average anime DVD today goes for about $20 -- and it's likely to have at least 3 or 4 episodes on it.

For comparison, Ranma 1/2 was a big seller back in the day, and it was selling for $30 per VHS tape on average, with only two episodes per tape and no extras. So you're getting twice the value for 2/3 of the price -- not to mention the choice of dub or sub, or the extras.

Hell, you can get the entire FMA Season One for $38 on Amazon.

Individual DVDs (for anything other than massive hit movies) run about $20-$25 in the US. That's been the operative price point for a good ten years or so, which means it's increasingly cheaper in inflation-adjusted dollars.

It's *half* the going rate in Japan, where typically the value is much lower because there are fewer episodes per disc.

The price point, from any rational perspective, is very favorable in the US.

I've heard that a popular anime show like Bleach or FMA may sell 5,000 copies per disc or box set. One that isn't on TV may do half that, if it's lucky. There are very popular properties that sell only a few hundred copies in the US. And yet everyone manages to cosplay as the characters.

In 2007, the first DVD box set of Mobile Suit Gundam sold 100k in Japan alone in its first month of release. Lucky Star sold 50k per volume in Japan.

Over here, we show a US premier and I overhear "oh, I saw a fansub of this the day after it aired".

And on it goes. It's horrifying, really. Most of those "free" sources give NOTHING at all back to the system, and consumers are too short-sighted, by and large, to care -- they got what THEY wanted.

In Japan, the culture is still geared to outwardly demonstrate your devotion to your favorite show (or boy band, or whatever) by buying crap -- and it's still a reliable source of revenue for the companies that make anime.

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The economic slump certainly matters. But more and more, it's that "pay to watch" has a hell of a time competing with "watch for free".

And the "I don't have money" argument simply doesn't fly, I'm afraid. Everyone would LOVE to buy more than they do, if they could afford it. People who knock back 2 red bulls (or a starbucks coffee, or three sodas) a day could choose, instead, to buy an anime disc every week for roughly the same amount.

The average anime DVD today goes for about $20 -- and it's likely to have at least 3 or 4 episodes on it.

For comparison, Ranma 1/2 was a big seller back in the day, and it was selling for $30 per VHS tape on average, with only two episodes per tape and no extras. So you're getting twice the value for 2/3 of the price -- not to mention the choice of dub or sub, or the extras.

Hell, you can get the entire FMA Season One for $38 on Amazon.

Individual DVDs (for anything other than massive hit movies) run about $20-$25 in the US. That's been the operative price point for a good ten years or so, which means it's increasingly cheaper in inflation-adjusted dollars.

It's *half* the going rate in Japan, where typically the value is much lower because there are fewer episodes per disc.

The price point, from any rational perspective, is very favorable in the US.

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The TV channels buy programs that they believe will help them generate ad revenue. The US distributors buy and localize programs that they believe the TV channels will buy, or that the consumers will buy on DVD, or that will generate ad revenue.

The reason that there isn't more anime on TV is that it (generally) doesn't sell enough commercial time to make it worth a stationbuying much of it beyond the known hits. If they're going to sell *more* commercial time during a rerun of Bebop than a new episode of (insert new show here), and it costs them more money to get that new thing, what incentive do they have to buy that new thing?

The US licensors have been dragging the Japanese side kicking and screaming into the modern era. They can't catch a break from their customers (who seem to find any excuse possible to avoid paying for content). Subtitled stuff is terrible at reaching a broader audience, so that means they have to dub it. Dubbing it cuts out part of the core audience, and more importantly it costs money to do decently. Those costs have to be paid for somewhere, by somebody. The US distributors have lost some major players (Geneon, ADV, CPM) lately, and the survivors have cut 15-20% of their workforce and slashed marketing budgets just to keep up operations. They've spent money on infrastructure and outreach and such. If people aren't buying the product, they cannot afford to keep doing that.

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Fewer hard-core otaku in Japan are willing to pay $50 for a single DVD with two episodes, and the number of folks in the US willing to do so can probably be counted on one hand. That model is dead, or at least dying, and you're left with a huge demand for digital, which the establishment on both sides resisted way too long. Take risks and get your stuff out where it can be seen, as quickly and cleanly as possible.

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The average anime DVD today goes for about $20 -- and it's likely to have at least 3 or 4 episodes on it. [...] Individual DVDs (for anything other than massive hit movies) run about $20-$25 in the US. That's been the operative price point for a good ten years or so, which means it's increasingly cheaper in inflation-adjusted dollars.

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The reason that there isn't more anime on TV is that it (generally) doesn't sell enough commercial time to make it worth a stationbuying much of it beyond the known hits. If they're going to sell *more* commercial time during a rerun of Bebop than a new episode of (insert new show here), and it costs them more money to get that new thing, what incentive do they have to buy that new thing?

It doesn't seem to me like they promote that anime that is being aired on TV like they used to. I still remember the

CN did when they first aired Gundam Wing on Toonami. You just don't see the effort like that to get people's excitement level up. They even had two airings, the afternoon version for the kiddies and after midnight they showed the "uncut" version.

It goes back to what you originally said about US fans wanting the same product that the Japanese get. By the time a show has been dubbed, censored, cut for US commercial breaks its not the same thing. I'd love to see CN or some other channel experiment more with airing more "uncut" or maybe even *gasp* subtitled shows at later times and see what that does to the ratings. It just can't be 2 years after the original airing.

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Adult Swim doesnt advertise at all, dont understand why they wouldnt want to advertise a show.. Look at how poorly Blood+, Eureka Seven, Trinity Blood, and Morobito did! These were amazing shows and AS didnt advertise, wondered why they bombed, and instead of advertising just moved them to the dreaded 5am timezone and let them die in the wind!

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The average anime DVD today goes for about $20 -- and it's likely to have at least 3 or 4 episodes on it. [...] Individual DVDs (for anything other than massive hit movies) run about $20-$25 in the US. That's been the operative price point for a good ten years or so, which means it's increasingly cheaper in inflation-adjusted dollars.

I just wanted to add that it seems you are operating under the assumption that anime is still sold by singles in the US. Starting a couple years ago, anime is released as cour-sets for around $40-$60 for one cour of anime (~13 episodes). That works out to a real price of $23 to $32 as no one pays MRSP (anime is 46% off at RightStuf with GotAnime during a studio sale, for example). Conversely, I pay around $300-$500 for one cour of anime by Japanese prices.

But, of course, anime is still way too expensive in the US, right? ;) I agree with you that fans have money--they just don't want to spend it on anime.

In fact I mention box set pricing just a bit later in the same post. (I originally had more about the box set phenomenon, but trimmed it at some point.)

My point still stands: some anime IS still sold in singles (movies, for example), and when it is, it is offered at a US-competitive price. Not competitive with huge blockbusters that sell millions of copies, but competitive with, say, other new releases that aren't the mega-sellers. And anime TV series box sets are generally comparably priced to US TV series box sets. And that's true even when you ignore the discounts places like RightStuf provide.

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There's no one true answer to what you inquire, but what I am going to suggest may be radical to most (including Otakon goers): The attitudes of the mainstream folk have to change first--away from going exclusively to fansubs and/or even RAWs; and actually appreciating the stateside copanies more like they did not too long ago (long ago as others will seem). That controversial outlet known as Crunchyroll was a decent start as to getting shows out of Japan faster (and legally), but I still think they can get a lot more out of it if the quality was better. As for the companies, more needs to be done to rein down on the fansubbers & fansub groups, a.k.a. the root of the problem.

Crunchyroll started off as an illegal distribution outlet; they went legit a few years ago. They had the necessary infrastructure in place to satisfy demand, certainly -- and that's why Gonzo got on board with them. But Gonzo's had a rough time ever since, and despite some high-profile wins (like streaming Naruto just after it airs in Tokyo), CR is still perceived as a necessary evil for the time being, and they're resented by many in the Japanese side of the industry, though it's also true that the Japanese side's own reluctance to go digital distro basically dug them this hole. Meanwhile, CR have not fared as well since being forced to play by the rules, or so I've heard through various back-channel sources. The recent Japanese investment in their company was apparently much-needed.

Complaining about quality when you're not paying for the product is a bit rich. They don't WANT to improve streaming quality -- they quite rightly say that if you want to get a perfect quality version, you can *buy* it. Because those minimal ad dollars aren't covering the costs.

Many of the companies have authorized Funimation to issue C&D letters on their behalf, but the real problem is that the legal work required to crack down hard is more expensive than it's worth. It's like squashing bugs -- they scurry around and you spend a lot of effort trying to get them all. There simply isn't enough profit to support that level of effort.

Also, I think the companies are looking in the wrong places as to where to broadcast their stuff. I know this isn't suitable for every series for obvious reasons, but suggestion to them to try harder in shopping directly to the LOCAL stations via syndication and/or the broadcast networks via new programming blocks. It won't be easy in the current market, but it is possible. Where do they get the ad $$$ for this? Simple, better titles that will appeal to this side of the Pacific on LOCAL, then the more niche stuff can stay on CABLE, though some of the aforementioned channels like CN and DXD really do need to reconsider what they did to those channels in general. Other than this, they just have to be patient. Again, there's no magic bullet, but there are things they can do now to better position themselves.

And here I have to really disagree with you -- it's just not even remotely realistic to do what you suggest. You don't seem to understand the cost of launching a new initiative like, say, adding a block to a local station. You're competing against ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and CW, all of whom have iron-clad agreements in place that require network programming to air on all the important blocks.

What "new programming blocks" are going to be seen as a viable alternative to proven network programming? It would be a massive leap of faith for any programmer to replace any existing programming with anime. And that's assuming their contract even allowed for it. Hell, 4Kids and Disney are the only folks holding onto the old Saturday Morning and After School programming blocks -- and they're showing mostly retreads of stuff that aired on cable first! The big exceptions there are Pokemon, Yu-gi-oh, and Bakugan -- all of them kids' series aimed at selling toys.

Local stations are NEVER, EVER going to be a primary outlet for any new programming that isn't a news show or a syndicated mainstream title with proven worth. Period, end of story. Broadcast media is taking a HUGE hit, and has for a decade or two now, and the number of programming hours available for local stuff has shrunk because it simply doesn't make economic sense to invest in anything else. News, talk, and local interest shows are pretty much the only things produced locally anymore - and they're seeing massive cuts to budgets.

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Fewer hard-core otaku in Japan are willing to pay $50 for a single DVD with two episodes, and the number of folks in the US willing to do so can probably be counted on one hand. That model is dead, or at least dying, and you're left with a huge demand for digital, which the establishment on both sides resisted way too long. Take risks and get your stuff out where it can be seen, as quickly and cleanly as possible.

Sales in Japan are declining ( 4.2% in 2009 ) but not nearly at the rate they have in North America. If we exclude children's anime and look at late night anime exclusively, it only declined 1.4% thanks to a 272.3% increase in the sale of BluRay. Not too bad during a recession. So I don't see how you could possibly argue that physical media is dead in Japan.

I'm not arguing that physical media is completely dead -- I'm arguing that the US market for anime on physical media is in freefall. They know they'll continue to sell hardcore Otaku their limited editions and such in japan, but that is no longer enough to sustain the market.

You're also ignoring that their customers in Japan largely do not want digital downloads. Otaku are abandoning DVD in favor of BD--not nothing. So why should the Japanese industry change their domestic model because foreigners don't like physical media? That's not to say there aren't concerns. Sales are increasingly being concentrated in the top titles, like Bakemonogatari (~75,000 per volume).Also, it's more like ~7800 yen (*~$83) for two to three episodes. I wish it was $50, but those days are long gone.

Here is why: In order to make a blu-ray sell *at all* in the US (beyond a handful of hardcore collectors with money to blow), it must be priced competitively, at least against other blurays. We have been told, directly and repeatedly for five years now, that the big fear the Japanese have is that cheap american releases will wound the market for expensive Japanese releases. At least with DVD there was a region difference, but the US & Japan share a region on BluRay. So that $30 US disc, even with shipping and taxes, is going to be very attractive to Japanese buyers. So one of their proposed solutions is to omit the Japanese language track, or not hand over the full masters -- which means that now the US market won't buy the product because they know it's crippled.

What we argued for is what we've seen argued on various forums and review sites: if you want the US market, you're not going to get it with crippled US releases.

Also worth noting: Many titles currently do not sell enough in the US & Canada to make back the cost of the localization for the release -- it's really mega-hits like Dragonball that carry the industry.

As for the model not working internationally, there are also more than ten regular R2 importers at AnimeonDVD alone. I agree we're outliers and Bandai Visual USA demonstrated it does not work in the US, but the fact is we're still here. In fact, on a purely anecdotal level, I've seen more of my friends start importing simply because the R1 industry is no longer offering what we want: both in terms of content and quality. We have money and we want the best quality possible. Instead of focusing on the core audience, the R1 industry cut features so they could lower the price, chasing after those who will never buy no matter how cheap anime is. Some companies, like Nozomi, do continue to offer quality releases to attract us, but the R1 industry, as a whole, isn't going after our dollars. When the R1 industry can release anime on BD that isn't a shitty upscale with gimped audio, give me a call. Until then, I import. Unlike most anime fans, I and others like me have money and are willing to spend it on what we want. If someone doesn't like my taste in anime, tough.

On a side note, regarding Aniplex, in the past two years, I've bought the R2s for Bakemonogatari and Kannagi and am currently buying So Ra No Wo To and Angel Beats.

Lucky Star sold 50k per volume in Japan.

Based on public information (Oricon weekly sales numbers), Lucky Star sold an average of ~29,000 per volume. It may have sold more in subsequent weeks that was not published, but only Kadokawa would know the exact amount.

I've seen that number as well, but the 50,000 came from here, which lists the company as the source of the info:

http://www.animenewsservice.com/

Kadokawa Shoten reports the DVD release of its Lucky Star brand has been highly successful. Volume 1 sold on June 22nd in Japan moved 60,000 units. DVD releases continue through May, 2008 and the company predicts each volume will sell between 40,000-60,000 units according to current sales trend data. They expect to rake in 700 million Yen all told on the releases.

Regardless, that handful of hardcore buyers like you, buying R2 releases, simply isn't enough to counterbalance the losses from people who *used* to buy DVDs in the US, but now don't. A big part of that is because only a small percentage of those who watch anime want to collect it on a shelf in their house. They're interested in watching it -- quickly and cheaply -- and moving on to the next thing.

Look, I have a whole wall of DVDs (hundreds of them, possibly a thousand by now), and I still buy plenty of DVDs and BRs, but even I buy less than I used to -- I'm choosier about what I collect, but also more stuff is available for me to watch on TV and online than there was a decade ago when I was collecting Maison Ikkoku and $25-$30 per volume seemed reasonable. (And I have a LOT more disposable income than I did then, too.)

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My point still stands: some anime IS still sold in singles (movies, for example), and when it is, it is offered at a US-competitive price. Not competitive with huge blockbusters that sell millions of copies, but competitive with, say, other new releases that aren't the mega-sellers.

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It makes perfect sense to me why they want to protect their domestic market over taking a chance internationally. And quite frankly, unless North American fans start buying again, it doesn't make sense why they should listen to them. If NA fans want Japan to listen to their wants, they have to be willing to pay for it.

As for not including the Japanese track on a BD release, it was only done once, to my knowledge: Black God.

I think you'll see a few more this season, but I can't go into specifics. I think it's a bad idea, but like you, I understand why they made that choice.

I think we are only disagreeing about the specifics, and not about the overall trends. We certainly agree that an anime industry that focuses on Japan when *creating* content serves both sides best -- just as making Doctor Who for a primarily British market keeps the show where it needs to be, tonally. And I agree that if US fans want to be heard, they should remember that their fandom means NOTHING if it doesn't translate, somehow, into dollars.

Unfortunately, when studios cater to the hardcore otaku demand, the reliable consumer base, we wind up with two seasons like last year's, where the only new shows are creepy moe crap. The entertainment industry as a whole (regardless of country) will apparently NEVER understand that you cannot duplicate the success of "Friends" by creating bad copies of it. Being deliberately quirky won't cut it, either.

Keep in mind we were specifically asked about why the ever-increasing fandom isn't translating into sales. We all know the answer (because they get the content for free), but the follow-up question is what will help stop the freefall. Crippled US releases will merely anger the consumers who DO buy. That's not a good way to keep consumers who are willing to buy from you.

What DOES work in the US is fan engagement. And as for Gonzo and Madhouse, they're quite different animals -- Gonzo's difficulties were, arguably, more about its holding company, and it's hard to argue that their biggest recent US collaboration (Afro Samurai) was anything other than a success (it was a top-selling item in the US). And I don't think Madhouse has any structural defects like GDH/Gonzo had; their business downturn is more representative of the overall industry than a result of chasing the US market (which, arguably, has kept them above some of the bad patches that other studios have suffered). No money means new projects coming in slowly, comparatively speaking -- though they're still pretty slammed at Madhouse! And Madhouse has balanced TV work with auteur pieces like Paprika and Summer Wars, which are critical and financial successes. But I'll have to ask you to take my word regarding Madhouse's health.

FWIW, we made this same argument ("you need to engage") to the folks at Viz, who've basically pulled back on everything but San Diego Comic Con. They're competing for US attention there against the likes of IRON MAN 2 and other media giants, and they're a small fish in a big pond there. For the same money, they could do Otakon and AX, and not get lost in the news cycle when Chris Nolan announces his new Batman movie. I think they may slowly be coming around to understanding, but the economy is keeping them on a short leash right now.

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I think we are only disagreeing about the specifics, and not about the overall trends. We certainly agree that an anime industry that focuses on Japan when *creating* content serves both sides best -- just as making Doctor Who for a primarily British market keeps the show where it needs to be, tonally. And I agree that if US fans want to be heard, they should remember that their fandom means NOTHING if it doesn't translate, somehow, into dollars.

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So, wait, then why don't Japanese industries collaborate with American industries more often? It sounds rather profitable on another front to try it more often. (I'll also admit that Afro Samurai was, indeed, VERY cool.)

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So, wait, then why don't Japanese industries collaborate with American industries more often? It sounds rather profitable on another front to try it more often. (I'll also admit that Afro Samurai was, indeed, VERY cool.)

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Sidebar about the industry's health aside.....

Budgeting.

Broadly speaking, I'm responsible for guests, industry, press, and marketing budgets.

The Guests budget eats up most of that -- transportation and hotel are the big ones there, but food and activities are pretty high, too. All of our listed "guests" are essentially Guests of Honor, meaning the con picks up the entire tab for bringing them. Airfare is the single biggest factor in how many guests I can afford. We cater in breakfast and lunch at the green room, and then either issue a per diem for dinner or take groups (typically Japanese guests) out to nice restaurants. Most of this is a matter of logistics and flexibility, since it's often like herding cats to get everyone to the same place and eat in a reasonable amount of time. Not too surprisingly, musical guests (who typically have at least a dozen people in their group for each act, when you account for management and support staff) are the big cost here.

Industry's relatively cheap; most of this is communications supplies and activities. Press is much the same. We provide some amenities to both.

Marketing & Outreach didn't really *have* a budget a few years ago, but these days there's an expected TV commercial near the con dates, the trip to Tokyo Anime Fest (which has helped us improve existing relationships and build new ones with industry and individual guests), and trips to other conventions (where we network, recruit staff and guests, and share knowledge with our fellow con runners). The last few years we've also commissioned an opening animation, as well, some of which has been re-used for commercials. Commercial time is pricey, too.

Of the marketing dollars, Tokyo's the expensive trip -- we try to send at least 3 interpreters and 3 staffers, so that we're able to man a booth and take meetings. Many of the guests, premiers, and cool stuff over the past four years can be traced to our Tokyo trips, so while they're pricey, they are worth it. And the networking cons do with each other, at a high level, is pretty important for the health of cons overall. Cooperation plus healthy rivalry is a good thing. Make no mistake, though -- Tokyo is 18-hour days and convenience store rice-balls and overpriced cafeteria food, punctuated by the occasionally awesome nice dinner out to schmooze our contacts. Tokyo isn't kind to big guys, either -- the trip is exhausting, and frequently uncomfortable (especially if you're 6'5 and over 250 lbs). And it takes specialized skills and the ability to schmooze effectively (ie, you have to get results). Still, worth it.

And now, we have a special reserve identified so that when golden opportunities appear, we can take advantage of them without crippling the rest of the budget (much as we set aside a separate pool for musical guests). So, for example, if Miyazaki suddenly decided he was interested, there is a budget line item for me to bring him that doesn't affect other guest plans. (PS: he ain't coming)

Musical guests (at least at the level Otakon typically brings) can cost between $15k and $50k -- and that's excluding the cost of the show itself (lighting, sound, techs, backline, etc.) -- and musical guests are notorious for having last-minute requests that prove costly. Now, that's just OUR costs involved in bringing the act and the required support staff, paying for flights and hotel and food, renting a shuttle van, etc. Keep in mind that the label or management or promotion company has costs as well. When we brought L'Arc, our costs were vastly higher, and in those days you had Tofu Records and Funimation (who was launching FMA) contributing heavily as well. Nobody has the cash to repeat that one.

A lot of the costs of programming and guests (well, concerts) are folded into the Logistics section, which contains things like venue rentals, audio-visual outfitting and professional a/v tech staffing, hired security, shipping our materials, etc. "Expensive but worth the money" is our usual byword for that budget; sadly, it's rife with union labor and ever-rising facilities costs. It is the prime motivator for cost increases, but if you cut things there, everyone pays the price. People notice when you downgrade the sound systems.

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Thanks for an extremely interesting thread. I've got a couple of questions that are a little inside-baseball, but what the hell.

How have your standards for press registration changed with the (let's be honest) downward spiral of print and the advent of blogging? I no longer register as press at Otakon (my pro work is specialized and usually not helped or augmented by con reporting, so I relax as a regular attendee ;) ) but when I did register as press, I found that the convention was a little more stringent than many events - they really did require some sort of strong editorial proof that a publication or product existed, whereas some events will let you in the door with just a business card. Otakon is also the only event I've registered as press that required its press attendees purchase their badges, and I think this is an excellent policy - if you're working press at the con, paying for a badge should be no sweat.

Do you still acquire Japanese guests outside of your Tokyo trips? Back when anime conventions were still embryonic, many times I heard the same story-- the con's big-name Japanese guest (Toshio Okada, Kenichi Sonoda, Yoshiyuki Tomino to name a few) came over because the group running the con wrote a letter, had someone translate it, and put it in the mail to the studio, and that's all that was needed to get the ball rolling. Does anything as simple yet serendipitous as this still happen?

Are you experimenting with any other marketing venues aside from your TV ad? Anime Boston runs poster ads on the Boston subway, and has reported that they seem to be very effective.

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In a similar vein, I do have a question about press, too: I hear the number of press badges per organization is down to 5 this year? Does that have anything to do with budgeting?

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Thanks for an extremely interesting thread. I've got a couple of questions that are a little inside-baseball, but what the hell.

How have your standards for press registration changed with the (let's be honest) downward spiral of print and the advent of blogging? I no longer register as press at Otakon (my pro work is specialized and usually not helped or augmented by con reporting, so I relax as a regular attendee :) ) but when I did register as press, I found that the convention was a little more stringent than many events - they really did require some sort of strong editorial proof that a publication or product existed, whereas some events will let you in the door with just a business card. Otakon is also the only event I've registered as press that required its press attendees purchase their badges, and I think this is an excellent policy - if you're working press at the con, paying for a badge should be no sweat.

It's fairer to say that we don't *automatically* give comped press passes to just anyone -- you earn the privilege by fulfilling your part of the press agreement. If your outlet or site provides coverage, and you don't violate our policies, things go smoothly. If you run a blog with 500 visitors and your coverage amounts to a paragraph boasting that you didn't have to wait in the pre-reg line and got a seat at main events, then things won't go smoothly for you. Once you've proved yourself (or at least, your organization has proved itself), you just need to keep covering us. We also make allowances for tiny press (school newspapers, etc.) and class projects.

We've beefed up what we offer press (mostly conveniences like a net connection, but also small giveaways like pads and pens and business card cases), and we have to account for comps internally, so it's not as though things don't have a cost associated with them.

Many of our policies emerged as various press chiefs noticed that press privileges were being abused -- a bit of diligence was needed, at least to determine who was legitimate. Broadcast and Print media generally have an easy time getting passes; bloggers have a higher standard to meet. A major function of giving press passes is to ensure your event is reported on and publicized, so people who don't do that get left off the comp list.

It's important to note that we don't require glowing reviews to maintain press credentials -- just coverage and adherence to basic standards. We're talking Journalism 101 stuff, like getting the names right, showing up on time and being prepared for interviews, etc.

And let's face it -- there is some good work being done in blogging and podcasting. I am always willing to give interviews and talk about the con and the work we do.

Do you still acquire Japanese guests outside of your Tokyo trips? Back when anime conventions were still embryonic, many times I heard the same story-- the con's big-name Japanese guest (Toshio Okada, Kenichi Sonoda, Yoshiyuki Tomino to name a few) came over because the group running the con wrote a letter, had someone translate it, and put it in the mail to the studio, and that's all that was needed to get the ball rolling. Does anything as simple yet serendipitous as this still happen?

Ah, the classic cold call scenario....that doesn't happen so much anymore, typically because back in the day there were maybe a half a dozen events in the country. These days there's at least one event every weekend, just in the US. And after a few guests got burned, either through some con's mishandling or through completely unavoidable stuff (like getting sick from someone on the plane), quite a few guests simply don't come anymore, and others have restrictions placed on them by their bosses. We've made it work once or twice, though it's FAR more likely to happen when the "cold call" from us is assisted by an industry partner on either the US or Japanese side.

Guests for Otakon increasingly come from a web of personal and professional connections. Make a guest happy, and he may volunteer to get his friends on board. In fact, when I last saw Kappei Yamaguchi, he said "what do I have to do to get invited back to Otakon" and I said "bring friends". Having people like Mr Maruyama (Madhouse) and Mr Suwa (YTV) as "friends of the con" is extremely useful, because they have personal experience at the con and clout within the industry. Their recommendations carry a bit of weight -- but again, it's all ultimately about *trust*. And that has to be earned.

Are you experimenting with any other marketing venues aside from your TV ad? Anime Boston runs poster ads on the Boston subway, and has reported that they seem to be very effective.

Short answer: Yes. We do ad swaps with other cons, some online placement, and so forth.

Longer answer: Depends on what the goal is.

We prefer moderate, sustainable growth to the crazy growth of our early teen years. We're close to the limits of what we feel comfortable supporting, and realistically, I don't think the venues we use can handle more than 5,000 more people. We also do WAY more than average pre-registration, though that's leveled out a bit since we lifted the attendance cap. Coming to Otakon tends to require a bit of planning, and we don't do one-day passes, so the "walk ins" we tend to get are people who put off pre-registering until it was too late, while they sorted out financing or work issues.

We're actually reviewing marketing strategies (or will be once I get caught up on some stuff), and we're planning some data collection soon too.

My gut says that we'll reach our demographic best by targeting the TV they watch, the other cons they go to, and the websites they visit, so until I'm convinced otherwise by the marketing folks, that's where I am focusing our dollars.

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In a similar vein, I do have a question about press, too: I hear the number of press badges per organization is down to 5 this year? Does that have anything to do with budgeting?

Of course at $65/membership, we're talking about a few hundred bucks in revenue that has to be accounted for internally. So that matters.

But I think it's probably more because it's a convenient ceiling for what is "reasonable" in terms of a team covering the con. I think of it as "two reporters, one video cameraman, one audio person, and one photographer" -- lavish coverage in most circumstances. Very few of the press teams provide coverage that justifies more than one or two people. Which is all that most press request anyway.

ANN is a good example of a press organization that may warrant more -- their coverage is usually thorough enough to justify it. It's also one of a small number of anime news sites that *everyone* follows (including industry).

Keep in mind that press who find that limit to restrictive are welcome to make the case to Alyce, but it's got to be justified, and she's heard some really loopy reasoning for wanting extra passes...

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So, wait, then why don't Japanese industries collaborate with American industries more often? It sounds rather profitable on another front to try it more often. (I'll also admit that Afro Samurai was, indeed, VERY cool.)

Afro Samurai did very well in the states, but it kind of bombed in Japan. Most anime production studios do not have the resources to fund their own projects--so they usually have sponsors. The vast majority of the sponsores are Japanese companies, such as Namco-Bandai, Kodansha, Kadokawa, and Square-Enix, looking to create an anime to generate exposure for the manga/light novels/sell toys/etc. The R1 industry has funded co-productions in the past, and FUNimation is looking to do more in the future. However, the bulk of the money is still from Japanese sponsors. Gonzo was a bit of an oddity in that, I believe, they were able to fund some of their own productions.

At the moment, most of the R1 industry is a bit short on cash due to declining sales so there isn't a lot of money to invest in co-productions. I should note that Media Blasters has also produced a few anime and live action movies lately (machine girl/Kite Liberator).

Anime production studios are hardly against making anime directly for the US market--someone just needs to front the funds for it.

Pretty much got it in one. Keep in mind things have changed DRASTICALLY in the industry in the last 3-4 years, and it typically takes a couple of years to get a project done. Stuff they're making now was started two or three years ago, for the most part -- risky project were frequently dropped or put on indefinite hiaitus.

The biggest factor, I think, is that is simply takes TIME to change the entire way the industry functions. And there is resistance to change in general, on top of all that. Japan is, after all, a nation where business still, often as not, operates in a 1950s-1960s model. Getting your salaryman black business suit and briefcase is an actual *ceremony*, whereas I know relatively few people who wear a suit to work in the US.

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The only companies that still release in singles are Media Blasters and Bandai Entertainment, neither of which have been doing well as of late. Personally, I loved singles, but US customers said they wanted boxsets so boxsets it is. FUNimation, the market leader, has not release a show via singles since 2008 (if I recall, Claymore was one of their last titles released on singles).

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the last singles which funimation release were all at the same time, claymore, baccano, and darker than black. media blaster is still doing singles and bandai releases singles "usually on a huge delay" viz is still doing singles for bleach and naruto! The single market is dead but the boxset market seems to be where everyone is going.

Funny thing is your still paying $45-50 for a 13 episode box set which is about the same you pay for the singles!

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Interestingly, I spent almost an hour on the phone with a friend last night who's a bit of an industry insider. We frequently discuss these matters, and he is seeing a bit more give on the Japanese side -- like me, he thinks in many cases the fight has shifted from us trying to convince them to try it, to them trying to convince the committees that control everything to change their ways. There are starting to be some steps into simultaneous dubs, at least -- which usually means you're going to get the same product as Japan does, at the same time -- and I'd advise industry watchers to pay close attention in the coming weeks.

In fact, some of the news is already hitting ANN regarding Aniplex and Dentsu approaching the US market more directly.

But more on that later....

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I know Gundam Unicorn came out with a eng and jap dub both at the same time, which I think is a good idea. All I know is if Funimation is going to be streaming its anime right after its released in Japan, I hope they are some how recovering with its advertisements cause I dont see how they could make out unless 100,000 or so stream that episode!

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ugh, I dont like the whole streaming/online method of anime. I see why they are trying it, but I like buying anime and watching it on a tv on a comfortable couch or bed, or with friends.

Unless you have a huge monitor, there is noway you can watch anime on a PC with a bunch of friends. I know people hook their PC's up to their TV's and do this though. Pretty much I think eventually the market will collapse, which is sad. Until then, Im buying as much as I can. Plus Id rather own my stuff on physical media.

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Any idea if vudu, hulu, and netflix (etc.) have been approached by anyone in the industry about the streaming to tv model? I would think that they make money or else they'd be kaput, so it stands to reason that their streaming is working for them (possibly not netflix, they do that whole 'disc' thing - not that i'm knocking it, i love physical media). If that's the case, the 'armchair anime fan' doesn't have to sit at his or her computer to watch. Lots of televisions have integrated services like that now, you can get them on game consoles and even a few standalone complexes devices.

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ugh, I dont like the whole streaming/online method of anime. I see why they are trying it, but I like buying anime and watching it on a tv on a comfortable couch or bed, or with friends.

Unless you have a huge monitor, there is noway you can watch anime on a PC with a bunch of friends. I know people hook their PC's up to their TV's and do this though. Pretty much I think eventually the market will collapse, which is sad. Until then, Im buying as much as I can. Plus Id rather own my stuff on physical media.

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Any idea if vudu, hulu, and netflix (etc.) have been approached by anyone in the industry about the streaming to tv model? I would think that they make money or else they'd be kaput, so it stands to reason that their streaming is working for them (possibly not netflix, they do that whole 'disc' thing - not that i'm knocking it, i love physical media). If that's the case, the 'armchair anime fan' doesn't have to sit at his or her computer to watch. Lots of televisions have integrated services like that now, you can get them on game consoles and even a few standalone complexes devices.

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Any idea if vudu, hulu, and netflix (etc.) have been approached by anyone in the industry about the streaming to tv model? I would think that they make money or else they'd be kaput, so it stands to reason that their streaming is working for them (possibly not netflix, they do that whole 'disc' thing - not that i'm knocking it, i love physical media). If that's the case, the 'armchair anime fan' doesn't have to sit at his or her computer to watch. Lots of televisions have integrated services like that now, you can get them on game consoles and even a few standalone complexes devices.

There is a lot of anime on Netflix, both to rent DVDs and to stream.

... meaning the Japanese studios. I also wonder ... Netflix (etc.) obviously needs to sign agreements to get content, but is it profitable for the American studios?

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Funimation, Bandai, Viz, and the rest typically (these days, at least) have the online distribution rights for US.

As for how profitable it might be, the answer is "not as profitable as selling DVDs used to be".

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Thanks for the answer Jim. Don't really want to push Alyce any more than necessary!

Anime production studios are hardly against making anime directly for the US market--someone just needs to front the funds for it.

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Shifting gears a bit....we're announcing a guest tonight at 9pm, or close to it.

Here are the steps involved in announcing a guest.

1. Secure the guest. That means we have a commitment in writing; for musical guests, that means an actual contract with addendums and riders and such. We don't announce until I have that commitment.

2. Obtain bio and headshot from guest. This can be troublesome in the case of some Japanese guests, especially folks on the production side who don't often make appearances. Even if the guest provides something, it may need a little work, or may need an update.

3. Rewrite the bio if needed, and get approval. Especially when they've come from the Japanese side, as they tend to be in Engrish and don't always make much sense.

4. Prepare a press release, and get it approved. That means that after Alyce or Lindsay (Press chief and her deputy) write it, I approve it (frequently I suggest minor changes and provide a quote or two), and then we give the guest (or intermediary) a pass at it. For musical guests and major stars, this can be a serious undertaking because they have full time folks to manage every aspect of their image. With Vic, he just updates his credits list and sends a new headshot if he has one.

5. Resize a copy of the headshot. Currently we use a 300-pixel wide standard, and make the full-size, best-quality image available for press and our publications dept. The name is standardized and we upload to the site.

6. Create the guest block (photo/bio) for the guest pages, but set it to "do not show" in our content management system.

7. Alyce issues a press release up to 24 hrs prior to the announcement. This allows folks like ANN to prepare a proper story, and do any additional research needed. Occasionally they'll have a question or two.

8. At 9pm, I give the all-clear and we make the announcement, so I enable the guest bio block.

The next few steps are usually done by me, or by our webmaster, depending on timing.

8a. I add a news feed posting to the front page, pointing to the guest's entry. That same mechanism feeds our automated RSS feed, which populates the LJ and other sites that get feeds.

8b. I add an entry to the left navigation system pointing to the page.

8c. I post a note in the forums pointing to the page.

So that's what I'll be doing around 9pm tonight.

Tonight's announcement will have an interesting event associated with it, so I'm also working out final details for that. Hopefully I'll be ready with more info in the next few days...

---- meanwhile ----

1. Awaiting response to counteroffer for Guest A. Expect a "Yes" followed by announcement in next two weeks.

2. Awaiting confirmation (headshot/bio) from Guest B. (have verbal confirmation already, but need it in writing, plus new info.

3. Need to fire off a note to intermediary saying "Yes, make the offer to Guest C".

4. Need to follow up with a possible interpreter.

5. Need to follow up with intermediary for Guests D and E.

6. Check with Industry Connection regarding Guest F, and with OTHER INDUSTRY PERSON regarding INDUSTRY GUEST G.

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Glad to see more guests coming. Not that you're doing a bad job or anything (because you are most definitely doing a great job), but so far none of the announcements have been ones I'd leave my Artist Alley table to go see. But I'm excited to see the next announcements.

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Glad to see more guests coming. Not that you're doing a bad job or anything (because you are most definitely doing a great job), but so far none of the announcements have been ones I'd leave my Artist Alley table to go see. But I'm excited to see the next announcements.

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I really, truly feel that the best way to keep the guests at Otakon fresh and interesting and a big draw is to NOT always go after the big-money guests, but rather to choose guests that further our overall mission, and that keep us unique. So you may start seeing more branching out in terms of guests, though we'll always try to bring in people associated with the anime production, dubbing, and music sides of the house.

The bridges we've built overseas have given us the pull to bring in people nobody else could. Sure, *NOW* Kappei Yamaguchi has been to Sakura Con and Animazement's coming up -- but we had him first, and set the bar. You guys have NO idea how skittish he really was, fearing a bunch of lumbering otaku-zombies or something I suppose, but once he was here had a blast, and it really showed in his interactions with the crowds. (And the number of "holy crap" guests that just didn't work out due to timing is pretty frustrating, when I know that they'd be here if they could. Awesome people tend to be busy people.)

My philosophy for guests is that when you invite these people, you treat them like friends or family coming for a visit. We take good care of them, but we don't need to put on airs. Tidy up the place, make sure you've got what you need to make them comfortable, throw in a few treats. "Come have fun with us" is the message we try to send. Because when you send a guest home with happy memories and a sense of belonging, they'll tell their friends about you. Being seen as a safe, trustworthy organization that honors its promises is *gold* in our line of work.

"We can do it better" was probably the founding statement for Otakon -- and in Relations, that means we keep bringing in a mix of old and new, of the expected and the unexpected. We keep arguing for the industry to take a direct interest, for creators to meet with fans, for cultural experts to share their knowledge.

This year, I'm hoping for an "academic" guest, a fan favorite, and possibly _____ to be confirmed and ready to launch in the next few weeks. A manga-ka is a distinct possibility as well (send positive vibes on that one!), and we'll have a few more dub guests to announce in May. Hopefully we'll know by the end of this month whether the director and seiyuu offers will go through.

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