Anime site handles piracy like a business problem

Blog post on Ars: “Competing with free: anime site treats piracy as a market failure” explains how a US site that offers Japanse anime with English subtitles manages to compete with subtitles.
[Anime distributor FUNimation’s legal counsel] finally came to believe that suing file-sharers was the only approach left. “I didn’t know what other options we had,” he told me earlier this year. “We were at our wit’s end.”

But making money in anime isn’t hopeless; it turns out that anime lovers will pay for content even in an age of widely available free versions. “In almost all cases, piracy is not an issue of legality,” says Kun Gao, CEO of the anime streaming site Crunchyroll. It’s often a market issue—and Crunchyroll turns a profit by offering anime lovers what they want: legal access to anime shows right after new episodes have aired in Japan.

Pirates can’t compete with this kind of availability, since even the most dedicated fansub groups need time to do their own translations. Crunchyroll gets its content a week before first air date, giving it time to do a proper subtitling job. Piracy may never go away, but Crunchyroll is out to prove that “competing with free” is possible by treating piracy like a business problem.
Kun claims that piracy drops “60 to 70 percent” for shows carried by Crunchyroll.
I think much of piracy flourishes, because it is often more convenient to use pirated content (you can download subtitles, use it on more devices, etc.). Especially abroad, it is sometimes even impossible to obtain some content legally, or not until months if not years later. It again [1] boils down to: convenient beats free. Even iTunes, which is a fairly convenient solution, still makes three mistakes regarding video:
  • Limited availability of original-language sound tracks.
  • Limited availability of subtitles. One alternative for solving this is to support external subtitle files (e.g. .srt files). VLC does this and it’s a great feature. It also opens up the possibility for fans to offer better translations.
  • Limited availability of content. Here’s hoping that we will have a global market for video content at some point in the future. It would give us easy access to local gems (French and Japanese movies come to mind).
Related reading:
  1. Why is the revenue of technical books declining?