Anime industry news in 2018 got off to a huge start with the announcement on January 4 that Amazon was shutting down Anime Strike. I never imagined that one of my New Year’s Day predictions would come to pass in the same week that I wrote the article. The shuttering of Anime Strike came about exactly the way I described in one of my scenarios. I.E., that all of the content from the service would be folded back into Prime Video, the double paywall would come down, and fans could access the content with just an Amazon Prime subscription. Something seemed suspect when the number of shows being licensed in the fall and summer 2017 seasons fell by half compared to the winter and spring 2017 seasons.
While I only got into one reason why the service failed (the double paywall or $9.99 per month for Amazon Prime, plus another $4.99 for Anime Strike), there other reasons that signaled the end was nigh for Anime Strike. For one thing, customer service was non-existent. If you had a complaint customer service was slow to respond and the social media accounts rarely updated. A few months ago they went completely silent.
Other problems included episodes being days late or being released inconsistently, missing episodes, missing subtitles, badly subtitled episodes, and poor execution in general. Our friend Justin at The OASG chronicled Anime Strike’s issues by compiling fan complaints with the service via Tweets. The service’s failing was the classic move of a large company trying to muscle its way into a market, not understanding that market, and alienating everyone before finally crashing and burning. To be honest, many fans thought this final step would take a few more years since Amazon has money to burn.
However, Anime News Network Editor-at-Large Justin Sevakis adds a critical piece to the puzzle in his newest Answerman column. Anime Strike didn’t just fail because it was a disappointment to the anime community, but Amazon’s overall streaming service is doing poorly. 2017 was a bad year for Amazon Studios and it threw money at projects that didn’t turn a profit. While Amazon itself was tight-lipped on the performance of the studios, producers and writers publicly stated how poorly everything was being run. The final blow came when Amazon Studios’ President Roy Price was swept up in the #MeToo movement and after being accused of sexual harassment was let go. Other senior management followed a few weeks later. With new management and a new vision, Anime Strike and Heera (a service specializing in Bollywood movies) were given the axe because of poor performance and a small audience.
To sum it up, Anime Strike was too expensive, it served the anime community poorly, the management in charge of the original vision left, and Amazon saw no reason to keep such an under-performing service alive.
Now that Anime Strike is gone and fans are rejoicing, what’s next? As much as it would be nice to have every anime show ever streaming in one location for one low price, competition IS good for the industry. If done correctly (no double paywall, better fan out reach), Amazon could have made waves and improved the streaming scene as a whole. Currently, we’re left with Crunchyroll, FUNimation, and HiDive for simulcast (and streaming) services. Netflix and Hulu are decent options for non-simulcast streaming. For now, Sentai Filmworks has moved the shows it licensed for the winter 2018 season to HiDive. It’s also too early to tell if HiDive will become a major player, but unlike Anime Strike the service is affordable (and is cheaper than Crunchyroll Premium).
Given the wild start to 2018, your guess is as good as mine as to where the anime industry will end up by year’s end.