The Japanese government is promising to finally stamp out illicit anime streaming sites overseas, and in China in particular, and replace them with an official streaming site with the cooperation of publishers and studios.
As part of the Abe administration’s efforts to muscle in on the anime industry and roll it into its “Cool Japan” programme, thankfully taking a break from attacking it with censorship for now, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is teaming up with 15 publishers and studios to quash illicit anime streaming sites.
In contrast to the previous disorganised efforts by individual companies to restrain the domination of international anime by “pirate sites,” this time around a “large scale” operation to “exterminate” the sites, although what measures they can take against sites based in China is not clear.
Their first step in this operation is to be sending takedown demands to 580 sites on the first of August, to be followed by the establishment of an officially endorsed streaming site carrying some 250 titles new and old.
The new site will be available for the equivalent of “several hundred yen a month,” although strangely no details or marketing fanfare for this new site are in evidence (and similar efforts in the form of daisuki.net and an upcoming Kadokawa/NicoNico site seem not to have made much impact either).
The ministry is keen to proceed despite the lack of details, as one of their PR flacks enthuses:
“We wish to ensure overseas fans can safely enjoy Japanese works legally, and to make a system where anime studios and publishers see their profits returned to them.”
Culture ministry guesses are that this year Chinese sites alone raked in over 560 billion yen in illegal sales, which Japanese companies saw not a penny of – and which would certainly finance the creation of more than a few new series were it actually to find its way to studios.
What impact unauthorised distribution of titles Japanese publishers never even bothered to market overseas had on sales, such as they are, has as usual been ignored – some uncomfortable studies do suggest it may have been a positive one, much as the huge “grey” market for unauthorised doujin works hardly seems to damage “white” publisher revenues, and the international appearance of the likes of Naruto can hardly be attributed to savvy marketing on the part of Japanese companies.
Amongst Japanese there is cynicism as to whether freeloading barbarian fans will ever pay their way as the Japanese so fastidiously maintain they do:
“Destroy the gaijin!”
“I bet they mean several hundred yen per title, not unlimited as the report seems to suggest but doesn’t actually say explicitly. Although at high quality that would be quite good.”
“If not it would seem to be impossible to compete with CR.”
“The ones who never buy would never have bought anything so their ‘losses’ to piracy are non-existent.”
“Doesn’t mean they are obligated to let them watch for free!”
“TV is behind the times – but they will never succeed with their series spread willy-nilly over a bunch of different paysites. They need to reform their distribution model as well.”
“That’s right. I looked up the legal streaming sites after reading this – we have d-anime-store, Gyao!, U-NEXT, Hulu, NicoNico, Bandai Channel, Noitami Channel – who the hell knows where they can watch which title out of this lot! Looking through all their unlimited plans to try to find one where you can actually get all the series you want, anyone would soon lose interest. They need to consolidate.”
“I live in America – you can’t subscribe to any of the domestic Japanese streaming services from overseas, you can’t watch on demand, there are no broadcasts on normal TV channels, and importing DVDs costs a fortune. There aren’t any legal options for most shows, they need to address this.”
“Don’t forget, most Japanese never buy the discs either – they are just watching for free on TV.”
“I wish they would actually make all shows viewable on TV throughout Japan.”
“Right – for the stuff not shown on satellite there are shows which are only shown in certain regions by certain stations.”
“The overseas releases are $100 for a season box set, the Japanese releases are $80 for two episodes…”
“What about FC2?”
“Give the old anime a break. You can’t get them rental or as new discs nowadays.”
“It’s whack-a-mole, but if you leave them alone matters only get worse.”
“Just promoting a single official anime site overseas would probably do more to discourage illicit streaming than a crackdown.”
“Why did they leave it so long?”