Amazon's Big Anime Platform Is Hard To Love

Akira

Amazon recently introduced a little chaos into the world of anime streaming. Anime Strike, which launched earlier this year, is taking heat from anime fans for disturbing the harmony viewers finally reached with English-language streaming services. It's made a mess of the streaming ecosphere, and was (for me) pricey to boot. But despite consumers' somewhat unfavourable responses to it, it may become an unavoidable expense for many anime fans in the coming months.

AU Editor's Note: At the time of writing, Amazon's Anime Strike is currently only available in the US. Amazon hasn't confirmed when the channel will be available locally, although its Prime video streaming service opened doors to Aussies this year and the retailer is ramping up its local presence. We'll keep you posted when more info is available.

Last September, otaku rejoiced when the two biggest competing anime streaming services -- Crunchyroll and Funimation -- joined forces. Previously, when a new anime season came out, simulcast titles were split across them. Most fans chose one or the other, shelling out $US60 ($81) yearly.

But completeness was a goal for both businesses, according to interviews with each service's founder. The September deal let Crunchyroll and Funimation share portions of their considerable anime libraries, new and old. It works because Crunchyroll, for the most part, streamed subtitled anime while Funimation streamed dubbed titles.

Everyone won, at least for a few months. And, anyway, people who don't subscribe to either service could still watch a limited selection of anime for free -- just with a lower video quality and ads.

Anime Strike

When Amazon launched Anime Strike in January, fans hesitated to take it seriously. It's Amazon's first branded streaming channel. The price is prohibitively high if you don't have an Amazon Prime account already. To access anything, you must have both $US99 ($133)-yearly Prime and $US60 ($81) yearly Anime Strike subscriptions.

That's a lot of money. And there is no free option outside the 7-day trial. (66 million people subscribe to Amazon Prime -- and I am in the minority of Amazon shoppers who did not have have Prime.) Anime Strike is also only available in America.

When I browsed through the winter anime selection, Scum's Wish, a brilliant show about lovers who love other people, caught my attention. It was only available on Amazon Strike.

So, I typed "Scum's Wish" into Amazon's search bar. Buried among the original Scum's Wish manga volumes and t-shirts -- facets of Amazon's world domination scheme -- was the "Amazon Video" search result. I signed up for a 7-day free trial for Amazon Prime, which of course bled into a yearly subscription, to check out the show.

So, yeah, I will have paid $US160 ($216) to watch Scum's Wish, because it is exclusive on Amazon Strike.

Bakemonogatari

For one show, the double paywall fee was not worth it. For my spring, 2017 anime picks -- most of which are on Anime Strike -- it may be. But when I wrote about them for Kotaku, commenters baulked. Many laughed that, yes, they will watch the shows -- only after pirating them. Most of what they usually want is on Crunchyroll or Funimation or free websites. Why spring for a new service? Why mess up a good thing?

In an interview, Anime News Network's Zac Bertschy asked Michael Paul, Amazon's former VP of digital video what he thought about "splintering" anime content, "so anime fans have to go to yet another location and pay yet another subscription fee" to keep up with an entire season.

Paul dodged the question. He said, "The really awesome part about Amazon Channels is, as you mentioned -- as anime fans want -- we provide it all in one unified experience." Unifying genres, including anime, under Amazon video isn't quite the ideal Crunchyroll, Funimation and their fans were hoping for.

Amazon Strike's curation team is doing a good job. Most of the anime I'll be watching, and rewatching, this season is on the service. On the other hand, the fracturing of streaming services is definitely a downer and the Amazon double-paywall is uniformly unpopular and, frankly, feels greedy.

But if it's where fans need to go so the industry doesn't lose billions in piracy, I guess it's worth it.


Comments

    Amazon Strike's curation team is doing a good job. Most of the anime I'll be watching, and rewatching, this season is on the service. On the other hand, the fracturing of streaming services is definitely a downer and the Amazon double-paywall is uniformly unpopular and, frankly, feels greedy.

    But if it's where fans need to go so the industry doesn't lose billions in piracy, I guess it's worth it.

    Its exactly these sorts of business practices that lead to piracy in the first place!
    I sub to Netflix, I sub to Animelab, I'm not going to sub to 500 different streaming services simply because they all want to "one-up" each other at my expence

      The thing is they don't lose billions to piracy. TV anime isn't made with the intention of making money directly from broadcast in the first place. The money is made by the brands involved selling merchandise, original manga, novels etc. Even Home Video sales are usually gravy. The way it all works is that a conglomerate of companies will buy a late-night timeslot on one or more TV stations and run a show in that timeslot, selling advertising space as well as using the anime to promote their ancillary materials. This is why you used to see "brought to you by these sponsors" messages, those were the companies that helped pay for the timeslot and the show's production. Western digital streaming is lucrative for them but it's not the primary profit focus by a long shot.

      Also the industry was completely fine when people were just paying their pound of flesh to three or four streaming companies and getting the odd show here and there via Prime Video. Having to pay to subscribe to a paid anime offering on top of the Amazon Prime subscription is what really bites. It's cheaper than CR if you already have Prime, but much more expensive if you don't.

      Prime is totally worth it even on its own though. Just the free shipping alone has saved me hundreds I think (I'm in the US)

        No, it doesn't cost them billions, but it doesn't stop them trotting out this flimsy argument every time the do something to screw over their current, and potential, customer bases.

        Again, I state that this is exactly the sort of business practice that drives people away towards piracy

        Wizz-fizz just stuffed up his quote because it didn't catch the second paragraph. The billions-to-piracy bit was still from the article.

          Yeah, thanks man
          Copy/paste was a bit on the wonky side last night

    The really awesome part about Amazon Channels is, as you mentioned — as anime fans want — we provide it all in one unified experience

    Except they fucking don't. That's the problem. You want to watch everything simulcast each season, you're paying for this (which is in addition to Prime, which gets some stuff already) plus Crunchyroll (or Funimation if you have to watch stuff with terrible dubs) and sometimes Hulu and/or Daisuki. And then there's the fact that Netflix are out there fucking up simulcast streaming for everyone by cherry-picking the absolute best shows each season before they air and them refusing to actually stream them until they're either halfway or completely done airing, which means no one talks about them while they're relevant, which is the kiss of death for most anime given how quickly the pack moves to a new season.

    And this is leaving aside some very real issues with Amazon's offering, like the fact that the interface is still utterly terrible.

    But if it's where fans need to go so the industry doesn't lose billions in piracy, I guess it's worth it.It's exactly that attitude that's going to continue to ruin it for everyone. Ignoring the whole impact of piracy debate and why you shouldn't be basing this decision on it, you're saying you are happy to endorse Amazon's shady and unreasonable practices and that it's ok for other companies to do the same. If people don't buy into it, then Amazon will start readjusting their prices to be competitive with the other cheaper services, (If they're smart) otherwise we're all going to suffer increased prices and further fragmentation.

    Last September, otaku rejoiced when the two biggest competing anime streaming services

    Otaku is a derogatory term but if you actually tried to do a bit a research into japan and its culture you would know this instead of just spouting words because you saw them somewhere else. Pathetic.

    According to the Prime Video CS guy I talked to last night, they have no australian presence and basically fuck you to the rest of the world. Any impression their local press junket gave you is entirely your own fault and they are remaining an entirely US centric company.

    Last edited 09/05/17 11:02 pm

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