Anime Finds VOD Success

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The Anime Network has been one of the early successes on the free on-demand platform, which has helped the company reach its second goal: launching as a 24/7 service. But going from on demand to linear, a first for any content company, isn’t Anime’s end game.

The company plans to continue both strategies, viewing and working them as complementary pursuits, rather than as an either/or proposition.

“Certain people will use VOD more aggressively” even if they watch the linear channel, said Cathy Rasenberger, president of Rasenberger Media, which handles affiliate sales and distribution for Anime. “We have never intended to drop VOD. It’s always been our strategy to expand the genre into as many platforms as possible.”

OPS ON BOARD

Anime launched on Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable and RCN Corp. VOD platforms over the past 18 months, and now is available in 12 million VOD-enabled digital set-top box homes. It also appears as a $6.95/month subscription VOD service on Cablevision Systems Corp.’s on-demand platform.

The numbers from Comcast are strong. “It’s a breakaway success story,” Rasenberger said. On the free on-demand platform, she said, it has been the top network in terms of views per user.

Overall, the average Anime user is watching 10 to 12 programs a month. The number of Anime views per month has passed the 1 million mark, she said. “There is tremendous repeat usage and loyalty,” she said. “They watch a lot, repeat a lot and come back for more.”

Anime supplies its VOD partners with 20 to 25 hours a month of Japanese animated product that is largely unseen in the U.S. market. It refreshes the content — both half- hour programs and longer-form movies — on a weekly basis

The product for Cablevision is a bit more sophisticated and more complex, Rasenberger said. And despite the higher price point, it has been achieving solid usage and penetration, she said.

Based on the VOD success, the network signed a deal with Insight Communications Co. to carry Anime’s linear network on a digital tier in its Columbus, Ohio, system. And Rasenberg hinted other MSO deals could some soon.

“We’re in discussions with every single operator,” she said, for both digital channel and SVOD packages.

AD APPEAL: YOUNG MALES

The success of the animation content has caught the eye of advertisers, looking to target the generally hard-to-reach young male TV audience. Toyota Motor Corp., Atari Inc. and Capcom Co. have all shown interest, Rasenberg said.

The VOD industry, though, needs meaningful data and standardized measuring tools to help bring advertisers to the table. The Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s On Demand Consortium has been working on those.

The linear launches will only help the VOD content. “The beauty of the programming is that it’s series-based,” Rasenberger said.

That provides Anime the opportunity to cross-promote programs on the VOD platform, allowing viewers who catch a program for the first time on the linear network to go back and watch earlier episodes on the VOD platform.

“Because it’s a young male audience, they tend to be tech-savvy,” Rasenberger said. “We had no idea how rabid they are and how much pent-up demand there is for this product. It’s the story in cable because it’s an audience that operators didn’t know existed.”

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