Netflix got plenty of attention last week with comments that they will be using $8 billion dollars for original content on the streaming service, including the production of 30 original anime projects. The money going into anime production from Netflix—as well as Crunchyroll, Amazon, and Apple Studios—has begun to change the model for how anime is made.
The Hollwood Reporter recently spoke about anime to the producers involved, as well as some wary creators.
THR explains that the big change has financing starting to go directly to studios, rather than through the intermediary of production committees:
Involving anywhere from five to 15 companies, the committees help share costs and risk, as well as giving advertising agencies, TV stations and newspapers a stake in the production's success and an incentive to promote it.
THR sets up the piece by noting that production houses have frequently gone into debt through the initial televised run of anime. Profit has come later through merchandise, DVDs and soundtracks, which are advertised via commercials paid for by the studios that run during broadcasts of the series.
Overseas sales and streaming revenue have started to change things, but production deals like Netflix's are having an even bigger impact.
Joseph Chou, a producer for Toei Animation on the 12-episode Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya series for Netflix, told THR:
"Lately the media has been bashing the anime industry over working conditions; the TV stations have been reporting on it, but they're a big culprit ... "Netflix is restoring it to a sane business model. You're looking at maybe a 15 percent margin rather than a 5 percent loss."
"There's Netflix, Amazon, Crunchyroll and Apple Studios all talking to people, as well as rumors there's another major player about to get involved," says Chou. "They're all scrambling to meet with everybody, but Netflix is the most aggressive."
"It's not a bonanza or a bubble yet, but nearly all the studios are fully booked until 2020."
Kotaro Yoshikawa, VP of distribution and licensing at TMS Entertainment, offered the following comment:
"Netflix is producing dubbed versions in several languages and subtitles in more than 20 languages, with a release to around 200 countries in one go, which we couldn't do."
"There's no TV station involved to say what needs to be done to make something okay for broadcast," says Yoshikawa of working with Netflix. "Though we may still have to make adjustments, like reducing the amount of blood onscreen, for versions that will be broadcast on television."
Keiichi Hara, acclaimed anime director of Miss Hokusai, is a bit more circumspect:
"I work on commercial productions, so inevitably I get directions from companies, like TV networks, about the story etc. When I was young I used to get really mad about it. But working out ways to keep those people happy has been the source of some really great ideas," says Hara. "That kind of pressure actually helps creativity in some ways."
Meanwhile, a lot of deleted Tweets are attesting to that fact that many in the industry don't see the changes filtering down to improvements in animator pay.
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