The state of anime subscription services (in the US)

OK, I’m done. The 2-year Crunchyroll-Funi partnership experiment has ended, and guess what? It’s because Sony forced them out of it so they could expand Funimation internationally. So future Funi licenses (such as, I assume, the upcoming fourth season of My Hero Academia) won’t be on Crunchyroll, and vice versa. This’ll probably also impact simuldubs, since a lot of those were CR licenses. This sucks, man.

I guess this specific case isn’t so bad. Funi’s back catalog is leaving CR/VRV, while it’s being replaced by Sentai’s bizarrely named, mildly unnecessary service HIDIVE. Which means the space opera favorite Legend of the Galactic Heroes and moeblob classic K-On!, among others, are coming to the service. Remember when Sentai put their licenses on Amazon’s Anime Strike? Some of you might not even remember what a load of shit that service was, which is exactly my point: anime streaming for consumers is more confusing than ever.

Crunchyroll, FunimationNow, HIDIVE, AnimeLab, Hulu, how is somebody interested in anime now going to remember where to watch what? VRV tried to address this by combining services under one convenient site and subscription, but it’s ties to Crunchyroll and its parent company Otter Media (owned by AT&T) limits its scope, as does the service being US only. Netflix was widely predicted to be a major player in this business as recently as a year or two ago, but they now only have a few licenses (Violet Evergarden, Little Witch Academia) and a few original anime series (Devilman Crybaby, A.I.C.O.: Incarnation) to their name. What will the market look like in another 2-3 years? Will Aniplex, Viz, Pony Canyon, or other license holders pull their stuff and create their own service that consumers have to buy?

The proliferation of streaming services is becoming visible in all of media (*cough* Disney Play *cough*) but I genuinely think that this could turn new potential viewers away from anime, if it’s not available on a service they already know. I know I wouldn’t have, as I got into it when Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was on Netflix. It’s frustrating when I recommend one of my favorite shows like Psycho-Pass to friends or family, and have to give instructions on how to watch it because it’s on some obscure (to them) streaming platform.

I really find it ironic that we fought so hard to get “a la carte” cable packages, that eventually became standalone streaming sites, that will inevitably consolidate into packages like VRV once again. As for me, I’m not supporting it. I’m going back to pirating my media, and then buying merch to support the creators. Most income from anime comes from Japanese viewers or home video sales, not foreign streaming sites. Here’s an apparently well-researched article on this (don’t read the comments).

Until our impossible utopian streaming future where every show is on every service has arrived, I have a recommendation if you want to stay “legal”. Because.moe is a search service that finds streaming sites for anime in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. If it turns up blank, go ahead fire up that torrent. Just be sure to buy some merch.

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