Are You Drowning in Streaming Services?

As long as we all remember not to cross the streams, I’m sure we’ll be okay.

Real talk: I was born in the 80’s and was a teen in the 90’s. I totally remember that sharing anime used to involve dodgy TV recordings getting copied to the point that they were almost unwatchable on VCR’s and passed by hand from fan to fan (the selection, particularly in Australia, was not impressive). Then YouTube came and with it a brand new way to access so many dodgy fan-subbed series cut into shorter than ten minute segments and often plagued by missing episodes or at times entire chunks from the middle of an episode (for those not familiar with past posts on the topic, this was how I initially became a Bleach fan and believe me hunting down part b of episode whatever number and trying to find English and not Spanish subs was definitely not an easy feat at times and that was when the internet didn’t just drop out altogether).

Torrenting also became a thing and suddenly I had vast arrays of series at my disposal provided I was willing to constantly monitor my computer for nasty little intruders. However legal and consistent access to anime continue to be a challenge.

And then came streaming services.

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Photo by Marcin Dampc on Pexels.com

I mean sure, poor internet connections and disruptions to service remained a thing and while that has slowly improved Australia still has a number of issues to work on in that regard (particularly for those of us who don’t live in capital cities). But now there were actual choices for watching anime. And a lot of them could be accessed for free provided you were willing to watch ads or put up with a release delay.

Suddenly being an anime fan became a lot more mainstream as people could suddenly actually see that anime was in fact more than just Pokémon episodes running during kids TV in the morning.

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However, nothing is ever perfect. Each streaming service has advantages and disadvantages and they aren’t constant. Crunchy and Funimation had a brief period of togetherness before going their separate ways and AnimeLab in Australia is now pretty much just Funimation with a slightly different logo. There’s HiDive which does still have some series that aren’t accessible elsewhere, though I ultimately decided there wasn’t enough to keep an additional service on deck, Amazon of course for those willing to pay for it and Netflix continues to dabble in anime streaming though hasn’t quite worked out the whole simulcast thing that anime-fans really want. There’s probably others, particularly elsewhere in the world, but those seem to be the main players that I have access to. Then again, assuming it isn’t over-ruled by the regulators, it seems Funimation will own Crunchyroll and then pretty much we’ll have Funimation streaming with a few different faces (unless they just consolidate the lot – though why would they if they can double charge their viewers) with a few other services that may have anime and HiDive trying to do its own thing.

The real problem with this of course is exclusive streaming where one service becomes the only one that can stream a particular series. The benefits to the company are clear as people either sign up or don’t have access. For viewers it means that one service isn’t actually enough to access everything.

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Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Of course some people still just bypass this drama by watching wherever on the internet it becomes available. Common arguments include that the studios don’t receive the profits, they can’t watch everything in one place, or even that it costs too much to pay for ad free. But, when I talk with most fans and the topic comes up most seem fairly happy to go through these services but inevitably struggle with the question of how many they have or need and whether it would be better to cut back or go all in. Interestingly when I asked my Twitter followers how many streaming services they were using (for anime) the majority actually only used one or two services though a few made comment that they had other services but not necessarily for anime.

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For me, I’m sitting at 3 currently for anime.

Crunchyroll remains a staple but their app doesn’t work consistently on my TV (and won’t run at all on my friend’s TV) so that means it is pretty much exclusive to when I’m watching at my computer. Still, the selection of anime remains impressive and the price for a subscription so I can watch without ads is pretty good so I’ll continue with it.

AnimeLab has always had my favourite interface and player for streaming anime however the selection used to be a little on the weaker side. That’s most definitely changed and now the catalogue is very impressive and they also do a lot more dubbed anime (while I still prefer subbed when trying to talk others into watching a show with me being able to tell them they can watch in English is a definite plus). Again, a yearly subscription is reasonable and overall I’m very happy with this service at the moment.

Finally there’s Netflix which continues to have a relatively small catalogue of anime in its collection but some of those are titles that aren’t accessible elsewhere and I have the Netflix subscription for other watching anyway so it’s probably there to stay. I also subscribe to Stan but that is almost entirely for 90’s TV shows and bad horror movies and it doesn’t have any anime on it (at least as far as I can tell).

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Photo by Ali Pazani on Pexels.com

Looking into the future, it is difficult to know what streaming will be like. With so many countries now trying to catch their legal systems up with the online world and at times passing laws that have huge impacts on how companies can operate it is really impossible to know what is next for anime fans.

What I do know is that we can’t put the genie back in the bottle. All these changes in technology and access mean there’s now a whole generation who know about anime and will find ways to seek out new shows and watch them. It would be fantastic if we can find a system that allows studios to make a decent amount from their work so they can continue to produce anime, while keeping the cost barrier to fans reasonable, and ensuring the streaming services themselves remain profitable, but there’s a lot of complications to be worked through and its unlikely we’ll find a utopian style solution any time soon.

In the meantime though, I remain very glad that anime is now available at the click of a button.

Images used in title image:

  • Crunchyroll logo.
  • Animelab logo.
  • Netflix logo.


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14 thoughts on “Are You Drowning in Streaming Services?

  1. For ages all I had was Crunchyroll and if it wasn’t there, well oh well, there was more anime on CR than I ever expected to be able to watch. Then I added VRV. And literally in the last few weeks I broke down and added Funimation. I was kind of hoping for a package deal, too, with CR or VRV and Funi but you’re probably right, why make us a deal when they’re already getting us twice? Hulu has some anime, and of course Netflix and I’m kind of glad to see them acknowledging the value of anime and giving it a place and a wider audience who probably would never go looking for CR. Suddenly in 2020 I was up to my ears in streaming websites between me and the hubby. I’m starting to cut back some that we just don’t watch that often. Amazon really pisses me off because they say the streaming comes with Prime – but most of it comes with Prime plus another $30 PER SEASON per show. I already know Amazon too well – they tend to cut off your access if you switch away from your Amazon devices or drop Prime or otherwise act as if they were not the only service in the universe. I’m so old I remember that when you bought something it STAYED BOUGHT and it was YOURS even if you stopped subscribing to that whatever. Now you buy something and it might or might not still be yours in a few months.

    Overall, I do prefer being overwhelmed by two many services to choose from, than by having to spend more time looking for anime than you get to spend watching it.

    1. I did try an Amazon subscription but the cost was too high to the anime selection and really tgere wasn’t much else on their seevice at the time that appealed so for me, even though there are som ed amazon anime I would love access to, it just isn’t worth it.

      1. I think you are very right there. The anime isn’t seperate now, or at least, it’s rolled into what I get on Amazon Prime Video. And I pay for Prime because I use the free shipping enough to make it worth it. But the video? I would never buy Prime for it.

  2. Irony: the internet is a technological advance in communication, yet it’s also a step backwards as the companies which naturally shared airtime on TV are divvying everything up into their own cybernetic fiefdoms.

  3. I suppose it is no different from having numerous film and TV streaming services but at least it is nice to have a “niche” product like anime getting this treatment. Let’s face it, if we had this in the 80s and 90s you know anime fans would be on it like a fly on a politician! 😛

  4. It’s certainly interesting to see how is changing. I too remember copied VHS tapes. VCDs too, oddly.

    I’m hoping that the Funimation buying Crunchyroll things maybe leads to a package deal. Like, subscribe to one, get the other half price, or something.

  5. Streaming became Cable TV Internet Edition as time goes on. Everything just became a competition, not a way to appreciate anime as a medium. While I do want to watch some anime legally with the current options from where I live, it’s still a 50/50 chance to have it on a reliable platform. I go to illegal streams when the show I want to watch isn’t there. And I don’t feel bad about it. The legal services don’t have the quality and speed I want to see unless if the person watching is a casual viewer because it’s their current option. There are many tiny bits that won’t be seen like a translated OP and ED, translated text, and even some sound effects left untranslated.

    And it does give a bigger divide especially in a seasonal perspective. Netflix does this to their anime and once it finishes airing in Japan, most people have already moved on and would go straight into the next season. I have access to Muse Asia and Ani-One on YouTube that airs anime the same day as Japan but not all of their shows are in my radar. There’s also this service from China called iQIYI but I question if it’s actually worth it even if they have big shows like Dr. Stone and The Promised Neverland due to their own platform capping the highest resolution at 720p for free users with ads. Sometimes I don’t want to give in to corporate greed.

    I personally believe that even with a bigger platform, the popularity of an anime will be varied depending on how it’s known to its established audience. In the case of an original series, it’s a tricky one too. It is nice to see anime is now more accessible than ever, but at the same time it isn’t because of the many options we have.

    1. Netflix really just doesn’t get seasonal viewing. Hopefully, if they continue to play in the anime space they’ll start to get the idea that a lot of people do prefer to see simulcast rather than waiting until it is all over and bingeing it.
      Sounds like where you are the streaming selection is quite different. Thanks for sharing your experience with it.

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