Preferential Treatment In Anime Streaming?

Sometimes, the line between seemingly being fair and up-front about giving all your vendors an equal chance versus succumbing to bias isn’t as black and white on the backlines as it could be.

The anime industry is no exception to this. At the end of the day, every anime distributor in existence besides Otaku Central is a for-profit business, and at the end of the day, maximizing profits is their number one goal as an organization. So, if an animation company comes to them and offers more money in exchange for more publicity for their creations as opposed to other offerings, what are they to say?

Perhaps this is something you’ve never really given serious thought to. After all, most of this happens transparently in the background enough that few people truly understand how rampantly widespread it is. There are, however, some questions that can be asked to start to uncover the tip of the iceberg; questions such as:

  • “So, in the recent Anime of the Year vote that was published, why did a specific animation company occupy roughly 60% of the choice options that were presented?”
  • “For my current animation streaming service apart from Otaku Central, I’ve been getting popups for a certain specific animation moreso than anything else.”
  • “Why is it that certain animations have more merchandise options through some providers than others, even though their products are otherwise licensed in equal proportions?”

While none of this is inherently wrong in any regard for a for-profit enterprise, and it’s not my aim to attempt to act as if it is, or to accuse any organization of any specific action, I’d rather like to present this from the perspective of a non-profit animation streaming service that’s promised not to give preferential treatment for any reason, and how we intend to do that.

Marketing – Treading A Path Less Traveled

Otaku Central handles marketing our sites, services, and subsequently contracted animations, in a different way than any other industry player does. After all, we have to in order to maintain a fair, even playing field for everyone.

Whereas many streaming services have ads that popup on social media, other websites you browse to, and within their own websites that advertise merch, anime, and other things, Otaku Central barely sets foot into this area. The reason why comes down to understanding how our Terms of Service on our site work, and our approach to marketing as a whole, if you can even call it marketing at our level.

Have you ever asked yourself why you see the specific ads on other sites for other anime streaming services? How does the “Internet” actually know that you visited that site in the first place in order to make that advertisement “recommendation” to you in the first place? Ever wondered how you can peruse a vendor’s website, then all of a sudden your Facebook feed advertisements mysteriously reflect that site?

This happens because of local or account-specific cookies and cache. Many vendors will query the cookies and cache your browser has stored on it from other sites and services, then tailor ads specific to what you use the Internet for. This is actually part of the terms of service for many organizations for using their website, and it can follow you from computer-to-computer if the cookie is tied to an account that can be queried for accesses.

This differs notedly from Otaku Central’s Terms of Service, where we’ve stated that we don’t use our viewers’ information for queries, out-of-site cookies that don’t pertain to the service we offer, and don’t offer it out to third parties for data mining. In the spirit of supporting a cleaner, private, yet resourcefully entertaining Internet experience around the world, this is part of our organization’s mission as a whole – and we’re darn proud of it.

On the flip side, this means that we can’t market or tailor specific ads or trailers outside of Otaku Central – which is why you’ll never see our ads on services like YouTube or FaceBook. While this admittedly gives potential visitors to the site less visibility into who we are, or what we’re about, we overcome it in part by using non-profiled marketing options (such as appearing at some expos and conferences), as well as two other reasons:

Firstly, we genuinely believe that we offer the best animation viewing experience on the planet. Between the plethora of features we bring to the table that no one else has, the merchandise we sell that caters specifically to things that help people, and the monthly open conferences we hold to foster feedback about what we can do better (to name just a few things), we strive to continually improve your animation viewing while at the same time working to make the world a better place overall. At the end of the day, people are naturally drawn to products that are head-and-shoulders taller than the competition, and that’s who we’re striving to be.

Secondly, we’re firm believers in you, as the customer. Yes, you! When you stumble across something that’s outright amazing, or is hands-down better than what you, your family, or your friends are using for a task or purpose, it naturally surfaces in conversations and other communication that you’ve found a better solution. We strive to be a solution that’s better to the point that you can’t help but tell others about it.

It’s our trust that we don’t need to bombard someone with this season’s “hit” anime, or throw images of specific plushies at you, or tell you what you “should” be watching in order for you to watch it. Our game is about giving everyone an equal shot at their viewerbase – and you can find it all, with a wide variety of sorting criteria, on OC.

Is Bias Inherently Present In What We Offer For Streaming?

This area is a bit more grey, so I’ll strive to tread as carefully and as clearly as I can.

There are thousands upon thousands of animations in existence through the extent of the last century, and Otaku Central doesn’t have every single one (yet!). While we’re working on getting more anime added on a constant basis, what determines which animes are prioritized over others?

First and foremost, this list is limited by which studios are willing to work with us. The biggest hurdle we’ve been faced with in many organizations for our contracts is that we don’t pay up-front for a set contractual interval for animation rights; the payment is delivered on a per-month basis for what people watch on Otaku Central, so that dollar amount isn’t instantaneously delivered, or a static amount. Some companies don’t like that because it forces them to do some up-front work with no guarantee of payoff, and that’s understandable. While we’ve made notable headway in streamlining the contracting process to make it easier and more “one-size-fits-all”, there are still outliers. No harm, no foul.

Once we’ve developed a working relationship with a studio, we then take a look at everything in their portfolio. Odds are that there are going to be some animes that went over better with fans than others, and some will have inherently made more money than others.

Our policy is to strive and tackle the more financially successful animes first, and we have good reason for doing things this way. While OC is a non-profit organization through-and-through, all of the studios we work with are not. They need money to survive, and the more we can do to get more into their coffers quicker, the better. After all, our aim is help as much of the industry equation in terms of money and happiness as we can, for the time that we have.

This is counterbalanced against the more “Indie” studios that are smaller, and may have a smaller fanbase than larger studios (and subsequently, less revenue). While the percentage number of how we allocate resources to pursuing these leads fluctuates a little, it tends to hover around the 70/30% weight of helping larger studios vs. making sure we leave room for the “little guy”. Is this equation absolutely perfect? No, of course not – but it’s a fluctuating percentage in an ongoing effort to add more staff to help ensure that we’re balancing things as best we can. The exact math behind who is selected for what is complicated; shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss it at length.

Once an anime is selected as being next in our list in terms of profit potential and income, a contract is drawn up for us to obtain a copy of the original content, along with corresponding content such as images and posters, as well as a time interval that we’ll have the content translated and subtitled, and then added to our site. This interval is usually 30 days per 12/13-episode season, but is occasionally written longer if the amount of content is extremely large or if we’re really backlogged. With this documented, each studio knows exactly how much time they’re looking at to get money coming in for their product.

I’m going to have to be honest with you in that there’s inevitably going to be some degree of inherent bias in how we operate in this area, unless we get to the point in a few years where we simply have most all animes in our repository and this is a non-issue. Only time will tell if that mythical landmark is something we can see with our own eyes.

Conclusion

In the Otaku Central world, it’s not wholly possible to give everyone a 100% even chance at everything. We’re a little similar to a Farmer’s Market in that everyone who wants a stall space can have one, and everyone’s stall will be on Main Street – same as everyone else. That being said, some stalls will be bigger than others, some will set up before others, and some will be in better locations along the street than others.

At the end of the day, there’s no getting around some of that. We understand.

It’s our intent and goal to keep the playing field as level as we can with what we have, and encourage others to do the same. If you enjoy an anime, you’ll likely talk about it to others. If you don’t like it, you may tell others about it all the same. Beyond that, all we can do is give you the means to view it through, and strive to do so in as fair a manner as possible.

An anime revolution that’s open to everyone, fair to everyone, and gives each studio the same rate as everyone else?

Yep. That’s who we are.

Caleb
Caleb Huggenberger is a 31 year-old systems engineer, owner of the non-profit animation streaming service 'Otaku Central', and Eastern culture enthusiast. Outside of long work days, he enjoys electronics engineering, cast iron campfire cooking, and homesteading on his acreage in the Indiana countryside.

Leave A Comment (please keep things clean & civil)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *