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Anime Producers Searching for New Ways to Fight Piracy

25 Jul, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey

SAN DIEGO — If there’s one genre of home entertainment that’s been especially ravaged by piracy, it’s gotta be anime. That was the message July 24 from a panel at San Diego Comic-Con International.

ADV, Geneon and a host of other distributors have long-ago folded, leaving just a handful of companies to carry the Japanese animation banner in the United States, most notably Funimation. Adapting to what consumers want is paramount for companies that deal in anime today, according to Mario Rodriguez, digital development manager for Funimation.

“We’re dealing with a tech-savvy crowd and sometimes they’re moving faster than we can manage,” he said. “If we don’t adapt, they’ll steal it. In the past three years we’ve seen more hunger for content. And the anime fans are so quick to move. When Blu-ray came out, anime fans were way ahead of the adoption curve. We see the same thing with digital.”

Azusa Kudo, international business development head for anime production company Bang Zoom!, said the days of anime companies relying on disc are in the past. Getting an anime episode that aired in Japan to stateside viewers within 24 hours is almost required nowadays.

“That’s one way to combat piracy,” she said. “The business model used to be based on packaged media, selling DVDs, but that model isn’t working anymore. Digital distribution is the way to make money now. But fans don’t realize how bad piracy hurts us. Every time you steal it lowers the budget of productions in Japan.”

Amanda Nanawa, director of programming for Funimation Channel, said there’s another problem facing anime in the U.S.

“There are certain things that just can’t air in the daytime,” she said. “When I have a title that’s problematic, I just try to push it back as late as possible. It takes a lot of maneuvering. But if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.”

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how late an anime series airs: the original Japanese version of a show is so offensive by American standards, it needs a complete edit before it can air here. Look at the long-running comedy “Shin Chan.” “U.S. audiences just aren’t going to accept a small child peeing on his parents,” Nanawa said.

Rodriguez said VOD is handy to share uncensored works, but broadcast is always more profitable, and “we just can’t air [some things] on Saturday mornings. The goal is to be accessible everywhere … and where your consumers are at.”

Paul Snow, head of west coast entertainment partnerships for YouTube, said services such as YouTube help distributors put out what they want however they want it seen. That meshes with how the younger generation consumes content, according to Jill Snider, senior programming manager of acquisitions for Starz.

“I haven’t met anyone under the age of 25 who uses television for TV,” she said. “If you look and see how the next generation is consuming content, they stream it on an iPad.”

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