So I decided to head straight to the source and talk to Crunchyroll about how things are going for them this spring. CEO Kun Gao graciously answered my questions, and you should read through all of his thoughts, especially the information on simulcast licensing. But for those of you in a rush, here are probably the biggest points of interest:
- Gao offers that they're only "halfway" through their spring announcements, so there's plenty more to come. (On the other hand, Haruhi is being listed as a "simulcast" on the lineup page, so we'll see how this turns out).
- Crunchyroll is planning to add morew member benefits, and have a particular announcement coming this May.
Interview: Kun Gao, Crunchyroll CEO
Kun Gao: "For one thing, we have yet to finish making all of our simulcast announcements!
The spring season is particularly rushed because licensors are busy with the Tokyo International Anime Fair, and then need to prepare for MIPCOM right after. That said, there are definitely less slots on-air for anime in Japan this season.
Interest in simulcasting is only increasing. Recently TV Tokyo, the #1 anime broadcaster in Japan (they broadcast 40% of all anime on-air) invested in Crunchyroll, so we definitely anticipate streaming more of their titles in the future."
AV: I also noticed that the announcement dates and number of announcements implied on Crunchyroll's Lineup page has changed quite a few times. Can you talk about the simulcast licensing process? How soon before a show do contracts usually firm up? Since you're acquiring digital rights and not DVD rights, how is the process different than it would be for companies releasing DVDs?
KG: Anime fans normally don't see what goes on behind the scenes, but licensing before broadcast is definitely a lot of work! First, there are lot of organizational challenges. A committee of companies invest in a title, with one company handling international rights. Sometimes this is not decided until one or two episodes in, so until then, the title can not be licensed. Additionally, logistics for the first one or two episode is tough.
Sometimes the studio is just finishing up the first episode within hours of broadcast (they are nailing down their process too!).
That said, we are committed to our goal of simulcasting all anime titles from Japan. I want to thank all the fans for their support and ask for their patience!
We are currently about half way through our spring new title announcements, so there are still a few more titles to be announced.
AV: A new venue opened up for simulcasting this season-- The Anime Network, which also simulcast a series Crunchyroll is running as well. It's the first time we've ever had a series being legitimately simulcast on two platforms. Why should fans watch Crunchyroll's version rather than TAN's?
KG: I think it's great that fans have a choice of legal platforms to watch their shows. Doing so will support the entire industry.
Personally, I enjoy watching on Crunchyroll.com because we are a technology company, and we invest so much into making our video stream quality the best. Fans can even access our content on a number of platforms, including through our iPhone Crunchyroll App, and our upcoming iPad App.
Also, as an added benefit, premium members get even better quality without ads, and additional membership benefits that we are adding every month (we are planning on announcing something in May for this!)
AV: Do you have any upcoming announcements for non-simulcast shows being added to Crunchyroll, or are resources being focused mostly on simulcasts for now?
KG: We are always on the lookout for great catalog shows that our fans will enjoy! In fact we have an announcement for a very good catalog title in the next few days that I think our fans will love... more on that please visit Crunchyroll.com for the latest!
Interesting information-- I didn't realize that production committees might not even know who gets the international rights until after a show starts airing! That said, I've given Crunchyroll an opportunity to make their case for their stream of Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou-- I'd like to do the same for The Anime Network, but at this time they've declined my request for an interview. I don't doubt we'll hear more from them in the future, however.