Crunchyroll's subscribers double under Sony
Plus: Behind the scenes of Suzume's China marketing strategy; Afro-anime film pitched at Annecy animation festival; An unusual company builds an anime hub; and more
This is the weekly newsletter of Animenomics, covering the business of anime and manga. Today is Wednesday, May 3, 2023.
In case you missed it: Animation distributor GKIDS is bringing The First Slam Dunk to North American movie theaters this summer.
Crunchyroll doubles paid subscriber count in 18 months
Sony Group Corporation announced in its quarterly earnings presentation on Friday that anime streaming platform Crunchyroll has crossed 10 million paid subscribers, doubling its subscriber figure since being acquired in 2021.
Why it matters: The release is the culmination of a yearlong effort to consolidate Crunchyroll’s content offerings with sister platform Funimation.
Crunchyroll discontinued free ad-supported streaming for newly-released episodes last year to boost paid subscriptions.
By the numbers: Crunchyroll had 10.7 million paid subscribers at the end of March, which was also the end of Sony’s fiscal year.
At the time of acquisition in August 2021, the service reported over 5 million paid subscribers.
Higher revenues from anime streaming partially offset revenue declines at Sony Pictures, the division that also includes film and television licensing.
In their own words: “Crunchyroll has grown significantly to account for a large portion of Media Network sales and is contributing to profits despite amortization of costs associated with the acquisition,” says Sony chief operating officer and chief financial officer Hiroki Totoki.
Yes, but: Sony’s goal isn’t to build a single streaming platform. Instead, it’s focusing on developing what it calls “communities of interest”.
Our take: Sony executives are watching Netflix’s single-platform strategy and its struggles with subscriber numbers, and they’re choosing a different approach.
The “Three-Year Promise”: Suzume’s marketing in China
Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume has earned more money in the international box office than Your Name. According to new data from business magazine President, China has consistently contributed the majority of international gross revenue for the director’s last three films.
Why it matters: Suzume’s marketing strategy in China has drawn the attention of Japanese film reporters, who have marveled at its success around the world.
Suzume’s China distributor by Beijing-based Road Pictures, best known for releasing Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Academy Award-nominated film Shoplifters.
Road Pictures’s first venture into anime films was Tomohiko Ito’s Hello World, which earned more money in China than in Japan.
Behind the scenes: Shinkai, the first prominent director to visit China after the COVID-19 pandemic, was the core of the film’s marketing strategy.
“I think what attracted the Chinese audience the most was Mr. Shinkai’s personality,” says Road Pictures founder and president Cai Gongming.
During a visit in 2019 to promote Weathering With You, Shinkai pledged to return in three years for his next film, a statement memorialized by Chinese fans as the “three-year promise”.
“Mr. Shinkai also seemed to really enjoy interacting with his fans rather than advertising his work, and I think that left a good impression.” Cai adds.
By the numbers: Suzume earned 110 million yuan (US$15.9 million) in ticket sales before its release, ranked 18th of all films released in China in the last three years.
The film benefited from early approval by the China Film Administration.
Partnerships with ticket sales platform Taopiaopiao and movie theater chains increased excitement for the film among younger viewers.
Specialty tea stand Nayuki and the local branch of Lawson convenience stores created product tie-ins, and QQ Music released a Chinese theme song cover.
Clippings: “Afro-anime” film pitched at Annecy festival
Right Stuf vice president and chief operating officer Christine Morgan has left her position, months after the U.S. anime retailer’s acquisition by Crunchyroll and the departure of the company’s founder. (Anime News Network)
An “Afro-anime” film produced by a consortium of anime industry veterans and U.S. and African film producers is being pitched to license buyers at the Annecy International Animation Film Market. (Variety)
Keiichi Hara’s Lonely Castle in the Mirror and Tomohisa Taguchi’s The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes are competing for top honors at Annecy next month. (Animation Business Journal)
Pixiv is revising its terms of service after the illustrator community site popular with anime and manga fans discovered accounts uploading AI-generated art that imitate the works of professional artists. (Den Fami Nico Gamer)
One viewpoint on the state of Japan’s manga magazines
“Manga magazines will probably disappear. […] It’s partly because young people don’t read them, but I’ve also been using apps and e-books more and more when reading manga. I don’t even use paper anymore, so I think it will disappear. However, just as the music itself didn’t disappear when LP records changed over to CDs and streaming, manga will never disappear.”
— Yasuyuki Mimura, editor-in-chief of Monthly Shonen Magazine, published by Kodansha
Data from the Research Institute on Publications show that manga magazine sales revenues declined 11 percent year-over-year in 2021. Data for 2022 will be released in June.
Kochi builds an anime and manga hub in western Japan
Kochi prefecture in western Japan, best known for its mountainous rural areas, is putting itself on the map as a remote work hub for the anime and manga industry thanks to an unusual private sector partner: a regional bank.
Driving the news: Kochi Shinkin Bank is highlighting its investments in the local anime industry as part of the company’s 100th anniversary celebrations this year.
Shinkin banks play a similar role to regional credit unions in the United States and are seeing less business because of Japan’s demographic decline.
Kochi Shinkin partly stands out because its chairman is a woman, a rarity for Japanese companies, The Japan Times reported in 2017.
Local developments: In 2022, Kochi’s prefectural government partnered with the bank in establishing the Kochi Anime Creator Mecca Project to attract anime companies and draw tourists.
Kochi is the birth place of Takashi Yanase, the creator of Anpanman picture books that spawned a long-running children’s anime.
An annual nationwide competition for students aspiring to be manga artists has been held in Kochi since 1992.
Kochi prefecture is also the setting of Mamoru Hosoda’s critically-acclaimed 2021 film Belle.
What to watch: Kochi Shinkin plans to open a six- to seven-story building for anime companies in 2025 on land purchased from the city.
Studio Eight Colors, a local anime production studio, increased its headcount from 20 to 30 last month and plans to grow to 100 employees by 2026.
The studio is producing a feature-length film set in the city of Susaki, also in Kochi prefecture.
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