I’ve been following the growth of simulcasting for a long time. I’m certainly invested in it, since I only watch anime legally (no fansubs…but that’s a post of its own). The first series I watched this way was Strike Witches back in 2008, through BOST TV. BOST partnered with a financially desperate GONZO to offer DRM-free legal downloads of anime, available for purchase just as the show aired in Japan. What sort of utopian distribution scheme is that? They eventually went out of business, though, due to piracy and low visibility, compared to Crunchyroll. R.I.P…. But since then, simulcasting has grown dramatically. Check out these charts, from 2009 to this current season in 2011:
In under two years, the % of new TV anime with a simulcast has grown from 16% to 72%, nearly 3/4ths of all new anime. And the growth isn’t just in quantity; quality has shot up too. There are streams of this season’s most 2ch-popular titles like Haganai, Working!!, and others. Plus huge diversity, from josei card-gaming to real steampunk.
On the % of simulcasted series graph, there are noticeable spikes in the Summer and Winter seasons. This is because in Japan, Spring and Fall are much bigger months for new TV anime, with many more premiers. However, the US/International licensing companies don’t have the same seasonal ebb and flow. They just plug on at a roughly constant rate, as can be seen in the raw # of simulcasts graph.
There’s one economic condition that was felt on both sides, though. The economic crisis of 2008 definitely had at least some part in simulcasting’s growth, even if a small part. When things get tight, companies need to squeeze out every last bit of money they can. The international market was the perfect place to start squeezing. GONZO reacted the same way to its economic troubles, licensing its properties like mad to Funimation (I wonder if Strike Witches would ever get licensed otherwise…well, it did end up doing surprisingly well in US sales).
But when it comes to meeting consumer interests, a little desperation can be a good thing. We have so many more opportunities to watch anime legally now. A few years ago, the idea that all anime would be simulcast seemed impossible. Heck, even the idea that 72% of anime would be simulcast seemed impossible. But after all, the future is where the impossible goes to die.
(If one is curious, here’s the roughly formatted list of simulcasts I’m basing these charts off of http://pastebin.com/raw.php?i=07zQm9qP. Defining what “new TV anime” is can be vague, but for the purposes of this data, it’s including all children’s shows but excluding TV-aired specials with 2 or less episodes, or anything that’s purely CGI, puppet, or clay animation.)