Copyright Shmopyright and 90s Kids’ Lust for Nickelodeon Nostalgia

If the events of the last 15 years have taught us anything, it’s that young people in particular, really don’t give a damn about copyright. What it stands for, why it exists, and the purpose it serves are so lost on the youth that they often act as if it isn’t even real. Unfortunately for one upstart streaming website, the corporate parent of Nickelodeon begged to differ, and wasn’t afraid to sue to remind them either.

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Is The Nickelodeon OTT Service Bad for Animation?

Nickelodeon is launching an OTT service. Yes, basically it’s like Netflix, but just for Nickelodeon shows. That should be an awesome announcement, right? Well, in theory, yes, it should. However the reality is different. Nickelodeon is a major producer of animation in the US, and by launching an OTT service, it endangers the future of the artform.

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Disney, Nick, Netflix, No?

This is an interesting story, an analyst called Todd Juenger has come out with a report about children’s programming, and one of the key points he makes, is that both Disney and Viacom (owner of Nickelodeon) should limit the amount of programming they give to Netflix. The problem as he sees it is that Netlfix, which is sans ads and allows users to cherry pick what they watch. is a threat to both companies’ existing business models:

 His advice for entertainment companies is to be cautious about how much kids programming they make available to the online video streaming provider and in which windows. “We remain firm in our belief Viacom and Walt Disney should limit their content availability on Netflix,” Juenger wrote.

As big a no-brainer as it is, it’s still amazing to see this kind of recommendation being made. Yes, it is a threat to the existing business model, but it also represents opportunities for new revenue streams, or even attracting new audiences to existing properties. I can tell you right now that if Avatar: The Last Airbender wasn’t on Netflix, there is only a slim chance that I would have even tried to watch it. Now that I have, I plan on buying all the DVDs. Yay new revenue for Viacom!

Instead we get a recommendation to partition content into individual companies’ services, not unlike Disney’s Keychest. Hardly a practical solution. I’m old enough to know that the internet didn’t really start firing on all cylinders until people discovered a world outside the walled garden that was AOL. Online viewing should not be going in the opposite direction.

When Cartoon Network Shoots Themselves in The Foot

Although this was posted on r/AdventureTime today, I had to go and check it out for myself just to be sure. Here’s my actual screenshot (click to embiggen):

 

Nice isn’t it? Instead of a full episode of Adventure Time (or any other series), I’m greeted with a nice reminder that I don’t, in fact, have cable or satellite.

While I heartily laugh at the subtle suggestion that I start forking out and arm and/or leg for channels with more commercials than content, this screenshot nonetheless represents Cartoon Network shooting themselves in the foot and taking aim at Adventure Time fans too.

Why? The answer is simple. By restricting online streaming of full episodes, guess what that does? It not only inconveniences fans who want to catch up on the latest episode, it also directly prevents new fans of the series from increasing their enjoyment of the show. Surely the whole point of entertainment is to get as many eyeballs on it as you can, right?

Turner Broadcasting seems to think differently however, and would rather cut off fans both old and new from their favourite show, by extension reducing the audience and the market for any merchandise.

Now that is not to say that the show will disappear, even the post on reddit is called “This is why I torrent” alluding to the fact that the show really is that good. The downside for Turner and Cartoon Network is that any fan who moseys on over the torrents is a lost fan, one whose interest (and potentially money) is directed away from their operations.

If I were studio chief, I would have serious misgivings about seeing fans go elsewhere for the sake of ensuring that only paid-up subscribers see the legitimate stream.

Robot 6 on Why Anime Companies Have Been Dropping Like Flies

Yoinked from: Robot 6

Admittedly I’m not really an “otaku” or into much Japanese media besides anime but thankfully a few people I know or follow on twitter are, so it’s a shout out to Faith Erin Hicks for the tip on this article.

Posted on the Robot 6 blog over on Comic Book Resources is a surprisingly balanced analysis of exactly why things in the anime industry are in a state of flux at the moment. The entire post is definitely worth a few minutes of your time, even if you’re not really into anime or manga.

The gist of it is that thanks to the internet, so-called fansubs of anime series’ are being made available (through illicit means) well before established companies or even the rights holders can do the same.

The post takes a good look at this and why certain companies (such as ADV and Tokyopop) have gone south in recent years, namely being forced to market content that otherwise wouldn’t be economically viable as well as being restricted in terms of adapting to new delivery systems.

What it comes down to is this: It doesn’t matter how much it costs you to make a product; you can only charge what the market will bear. The way out of this is to offer the iffy manga and anime at a low cost, which generally means digitally, and put the premium content onto physical media at a premium price. If people just want to get their weekly fix of some second-rate anime, but don’t want a special edition to treasure forever, well, let them watch it via streaming media, sell some ads, and make some money you wouldn’t have otherwise. This also solves the other structural problem in the anime industry, the delay in getting shows to foreign markets, because digital is obviously faster than physical distribution. Just as water seeks its own level, consumers will find what they want. The only question is whether they get it from publishers or pirates, and publishers have a lot more choice than they realize. Most of the people watching bootleg anime won’t pay $30 for it anyway—that’s not a lost sale. But put it online, throw in some ads, maybe paid memberships for the hard-core fans who want higher quality and fresher content, and now that anime is making money from new viewers.

This is the crux of the issue. The reluctance of studios and networks to adapt to the market in order to better serve consumers is the real reason people are becoming “pirates”.

The important lesson is that consumers will do what they want. You can educate them, coerce them and entice them. But at the end of the day, if they can get something that you are either unwilling or unable to provide, they will look to other means, even if it means becoming a “pirate”.

This scenario contains lessons for the American animation industry. Being as expensive and complicated as it is to produce, is it wise to stick to the old, established ways and watch as your customers leave you behind? Why are shows like My Life as a Teenage Robot only coming out on DVD now? Why are they still not online (in the legitimate sense)?

These are all questions that studios and animators should be asking themselves. Are you catering to the changing market, or are you clinging to the old ways? Is that downloaded short film a lost sale? Or is it a sign of an under-served consumer?

The anime industry is just one of many that is undergoing similar issues, they are not unique. What is interesting though, has been what anime companies that have responded have done.

Smart localizers are catching on. Crunchyroll, a former pirate site that has gone mainstream in the sense of going legit and paying its content providers, seems to be doing quite well with streaming anime. Digital Manga has formed the Digital Manga Guild, which publishes enjoyably trashy yaoi manga digitally for less than the cost of a print volume and keeps prices low by using amateur translators. Viz is making the boldest move of all, putting Shonen Jump magazine online at a relatively low price and posting episodes of the top six series in within two weeks of their Japanese debut.

This ultimately means that:

The speed scanners will still beat them to it—for now—but…..manga and anime fans are basically decent and like to support the creators. Given a legitimate, inexpensive alternative, and a bit of education, many if not most will do the right thing.

This is true of any consumer. They are all for the most part, decent. if they weren’t, we would have seen at least on major studio go bankrupt by now. Be nice to them and they will reward you in return.

The Robot 6 post concludes with this great quote:

….by charging champagne prices for a beer product, anime and manga companies are sinking their own ship, and they don’t need the pirates to do it for them.

American studios take note.

Does it Really Make Sense to Rent Animated Content Via YouTube?

As The Hollywood Reporter mentioned last week, the Disney Studios is following hot on the heels of the interactive unit in partnering with YouTube to deliver content. Not original content mind you, but content nonetheless.

So the question is, why “rent” films via streaming? That makes little sense. Just let me buy the thing. It’s essentially the same cost to the studio either way, right? I mean I have to download a copy of the film regardless, and the bandwidth has to be paid either way, so why not just let me store it and re-watch it again and again?

Heck, why would I pay to watch it just once when I can hit up the bittorrents and download it for free and without restriction? What’s the difference then? If you’re charging a minimal amount to “rent” it, the marginal difference between making me pay for it and giving it away for free is minimized. The result is that, I, as a consumer, am likely to pick the method that delivers the best value; i.e. downloading the version that I can watch again and again.

I’m decidedly curious to see how this turns out. The last time major studios attempted a streaming “rental” business model, they charged people $30 a movie, and the whole thing fell flat on its face.

“The Revolution Is Here. What Are You Waiting For?”

This morning, Fed Seibert has a great post about the ongoing revolution in video we’re seeing thanks to YouTube and he has this choice quote (emphasis mine):

But that’s not where the action is. Remember, Adventure Time first blew up on YouTube; we absolutely never would have sold the show without the explosion of interest from their community.

That’s the money quote right there, and the secret to any piece of entertainment’s success. A community will do more to make you money than any advertising can ever hoper to achieve.

He follows it up with this advice:

There’s ways to make money if you’re popular, and more importantly it’s where the audience is.

The old ways of doing things are falling. You simply cannot expect to make money or reach an audience  the same way they did in the old days.

Thankfully, the tools to do so are so readily accessible and cheap, like Fred says:

Any of you making films should be making more and posting them.

 

J. Katzenburg Places A Smart Bet on Netflix


The latter half of 2011 hasn’t exactly been very kind to either DreamWorks or Netflix. The former saw it’s stock slide after poorer than expected first quarter results and the latter has been taking a hammering from just about everyone after they raised prices and then announced that they were splitting their streaming and DVD services across two separate companies.

Despite these setbacks, things keep moving along which leads us to yesterday’s announcement that DreamWorks has agreed to make it’s entire catalogue available on Netflix starting in 2013.

While there’s not much to say about the deal itself (you can read the entire press release or Variety’s take on it for the details), the very fact that it was made is significant for the simple reason that DreamWorks is the first major studio to sign directly with Netflix.

Until now, that major studios have treated Netflix almost like an annoyance that keeps reminding them that the media landscape is changing beyond their control. Collectively, they’ve tried to keep as much of their content off of Netflix as possible. Heck, they’ve even tried to keep DVDs off the service by instituting the pointless 28 day delay for new releases.

DreamWorks is the first to realise that they can stand to benefit from simply having their content available for people to see. New releases from Disney will likely disappear from Netflix as the Starz deal expires in Marc, and if that’s still the status quo come 2013, DW will be in a market where it’s main competitor is not.

This is the kind of innovation DreamWorks needs to invest in if it is to continue to exist as an independent company, indeed, I called for it just a few months ago when Paramount broke off talks to continue their distribution deal.

The proliferation of Netflix on mobile and TV platforms also ensures that DW’s content is everywhere they are and reaches the largest audience possible. It doesn’t matter if the quality is not top-notch, the convenience factor of being instantly available will override that in a heartbeat.

A lot of industry folks will be watching these developments very closely because if it turns out to be mutually beneficial to both companies, you can expect a lot of similar deals to follow.