What if Sony dethroned Netflix?

Netflix dominates the SVOD market head and shoulders in 2021, even if the successive arrival of Prime Video, Disney + and HBO Max have redistributed the cards somewhat. However, another actor could well be on the way to dethrone the famous streaming platform in a field in particular, but especially in full growth… that of the Japanese animation. This spoilsport is Sony!

Summary

  • SVOD & Simulcast
  • The Japanese animation market
  • Netflix versus Sony
  • Towards a Japanese animation Netflix?

SVOD & Simulcast

Before embarking on an analysis of the Japanese animation market, it is necessary to delimit the outlines of the subject, and to define its terms. We will deliberately put aside the Japanese archipelago and its specificities to focus on the West, and more precisely the two territories that consume the most anime outside of Japan, namely France and the United States.

Now let’s come back to the concepts of SVOD and simulcast in order to better understand this sector, and thus understand what it is all about. SVOD (for Subscription video on demand) refers to video on demand subscription services. In short, you pay a certain amount in exchange for unlimited access to a precise catalog which is regularly updated. Among the most popular players we find Netflix, Prime Video, Disney + and finally HBO Max (not available in France).

Simulcast is the contraction of the terms “simultaneous” and “broadcast”. This neologism refers to the simultaneous or slightly delayed (+24 hours) broadcast of content, here an anime, on two separate media… In this case Japanese television and a SVOD platform. The main players in this recent market in France and the United States are none other than ADN (for Anime Digital Network), Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hidive, Hulu, Viz Media and Wakanim. This non-exhaustive list varies from country to country.


The Japanese animation market

According to analysts at GrandViewResearch, the size of the global anime market was estimated at US $ 23.56 billion in 2020, and is expected to register an annual increase of 9.5% over the period 2021-2028. In North America, Japanese animation grossed US $ 1.9 billion in 2019, and the coming years promise to be lucrative with growth of + 15.5% per year. The major players in the sector therefore have every interest in investing massively with internet distribution in their sights. In fact, this buoyant segment, which includes SVOD and simulcasting, is showing annual international growth of + 14% until 2028.

As for the simulcast, the situation is quite different in the two territories that interest us. In the United States, the number of players fluctuates according to partnerships and takeovers. Faced with the historic Crunchyroll platform (Funimation Global Group) launched in 2006 and with more than 100 million users worldwide (figures from February 2021) stand Hidive (Sentai Filmworks), Hulu (The Walt Disney Company) and Viz Media.

On French territory, the simulcast seems to have found some stability in recent years with a trio of firmly established actors. Anime Digital Network (Kazé, Kana Home Video), Crunchyroll SAS (Sony Pictures) and Wakanim (Sony Pictures) share a lucrative growing market. There is clearly money to be made with animated series from Japan, and the main stakeholders have understood that. Among the companies mentioned above, one of them is doing well… Sony.

What if Sony dethroned Netflix?

Netflix versus Sony

Faced with the growing interest of the population for Japanese animation, the main SVOD platforms invest in the acquisition and / or production of animated series. In this area, Netflix is ​​the perfect example. Indeed, the streaming platform plays on both sides by regularly enriching its catalog with essential sagas while offering its share of animated “Originals” projects.

In France, Netflix has a dizzying list of cult series, from Naruto to Cowboy bebop, including Hunter x Hunter, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Bleach. This subscription service also acquires the broadcasting rights of the stars of the moment., once the seasons are over, with a certain delay. This strategy could have long-term consequences. We are necessarily thinking of the Attack on Titan phenomena and recently of Demon Slayer, two sagas that arrived late, and therefore after the battle.

In parallel, the SVOD service is increasing the number of Netflix Originals in order to make itself indispensable to anime fans. Baki, Beastars, Blame !, Devilman Cry Baby, Dorohedoro, Great Pretender, Kengan Ashura, and Violet Evergarden are just a few examples among many, and the list only grows with each new announcement. A unique platform to bring together old and new animated series… such is the strategy of Netflix.

What if Sony dethroned Netflix?

On the other side of the chessboard is Sony which, unlike Netflix and its unique offer, plays the hydras through the buyout, absorption of the main players in the market as well as the creation of new ones. Sony brings together in 2021 a multitude of companies revolving around Japanese animation. In terms of production, the Japanese giant owns Aniplex, a company founded in 1995 and involved in the Fullmetal Alchemist, Sword Art Online and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba series.

Since 2020, Crunchyroll has added its stone to the building, and produces its own “Originals”. Some of the most notable are: Blade Runner Black Lotus, Shenmue The Animation, The God of High School, and Tower of God. The bulk of Sony’s assets, however, are in distribution. In December 2020, Funimation and Aniplex, two subsidiaries of the Japanese company, announced the acquisition of Crunchyroll. 7 months and $ 1.75 billion later, the acquisition is confirmed.

Sony then becomes one of the main players in the anime market in terms of online distribution both in North America (Funimation, Crunchyroll) and in France. Indeed, the Japanese giant now owns 100% of the simulcast platforms on French territory (with the exception of Netflix Originals), namely DNA, Crunchyroll and Wakanim. To see an animated series “Day One” in France, a “Sony” subscription is required. The strategy of conquering Japanese animation thus rests in 2021 on two pillars… the richness of the catalog and the immediacy of the programs. Netflix versus Sony… a case to be continued.

What if Sony dethroned Netflix?

Towards a Japanese animation Netflix?

A platform to bring together all of the Japanese animated series under one banner takes on the air of fiction. Whether in theory or in practice, this single idea flirts dangerously with utopia. However, Sony has theoretically all the cards in hand (or almost) to make this dream a “certain reality”. It is not tomorrow the day before that DNA, Crunchyroll and Wakanim will merge to become a single entity, but hope is in order.

Dragon Ball, Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen, Attack on Titan, Naruto, One Piece, Tokyo Revengers etc. these emblematic japanimation series could one day be accessible via a single SVOD and simulcast platform and therefore a single subscription… At least in some areas. In France, this hypothetical plan would be carried out under the aegis of Sony. However, this excludes original productions from the competition, Netflix in the lead.

The next step would be to include these streaming offers in other subscriptions, and the video game shares many points in common with the manga & anime sphere, the target audiences being essentially the same. In 2021, Sony has tried on several occasions to link video games and Japanese animation. The latter first offered 90 days free on Wakanim to PlayStation players during Play at Home before integrating Crunchyroll into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for a 75-day trial. Many experts see it as the beginnings of a PlayStation Plus “Anime Pass”.

Sony would have everything to gain by merging some of its subscription services in order to create an ultimate “culture” offer which would allow it to compete with Microsoft and its Game Pass. Especially since the Japanese company launched last spring the Playstation Plus Video Pass (only in Poland for the moment), a PS + including video games and films. Speaking of culture, the Xbox Game Pass is now part of the eligible offers in the Culture Pass since November 2021. The circle is complete… well almost. It remains for Sony to realize this idealistic vision to the delight of anime and video game fans.

What if Sony dethroned Netflix?

Demon Slayer – Anime & Films