Remember the good old fashioned days when you could turn on the television and watch your favorite anime? Well, with a general disinterest from other cable networks, the slow, agonizing death of conventional anime broadcasting seems to be speeding up. Fortunately, others are looking for solutions. Over the summer, Viz Media announced Neon Alley, a new 24-hour online anime network for PS3/PlayStation Network. In addition to uncut, English-dub premieres, the subscription-based network will also air original news content, live-action films and behind-the-scenes anime/manga exclusives. Oh, and Nerdist News is giving you the chance to get 30 days free of charge with the subscription-only service. Not bad for a Thursday morning, huh?
From a business standpoint, Neon Alley is a bold move on Viz’s part, but one with the potential for huge payoff. In an interview with Anime News Network, Viz Media’s Vice President of Animation Brian Ige remarked, “Our top series have millions of weekly viewers, but there’s not a lot of opportunities to highlight new series on traditional TV or cable networks.” Rather than sending them to Hulu, Crackle, or Netflix, creating a proprietary service where they can release first-run programming from top-tier titles like Tiger & Bunny, Blue Exorcist, Naruto: Shippuden and Berserk: The Golden Age Arc trilogy will allow them to actually make money off their titles, which they can then use to bring more of our favorite series to English-speaking audiences. In industry terms, that’s a “win-win.” We had some questions of our own for Ige, which we asked when we caught up with him:
TOKYOPOP: Are there plans to implement a library of content for subscribers to watch on demand or will it always follow a set programming schedule?
Brian Ige: Our goal with Neon Alley right now is to have it be just like your favorite channel that you tune into, dedicated to anime and related content. No matter when you tune in, there will always be cool content that we curate on the schedule. We are listening to consumer feedback and taking it all into consideration as we develop the next phase of Neon Alley – there is definitely more to come!
TP: Will there be options to watch subtitled content too in the future?
BI: Neon Alley focuses exclusively on dubbed content. Right now, there are lots of good options for fans to view subtitled content, including through on-demand streaming sites like our very own VIZAnime.com.
TP: What has been the biggest challenge in implementing the Neon Alley service thus far?
BI: The biggest challenge so far has been getting the word out to core and casual anime fans, since Neon Alley is a new brand and such a unique service.
Could this be the future of how we watch anime? In truth, it’s too early to tell. Like Ige said, the challenge lies in getting the word out to fans. Services like Hulu (Hulu Plus notwithstanding) and Crackle can offer their services free of charge because they air commercials before or during programming, whereas Netflix charges for the privilege of accessing a large, commercial-free library of titles. Neon Alley, however, comes with a $6.99 per month subscription fee and will show commercials, too, which may be a turn-off to some viewers. To be fair, showing commercials lets them keep their costs low, which in turn allows for lower subscription prices. It may be too early to tell if streaming video services will fully replace television, but in the meantime, let’s just be grateful that we can summon anime to our PS3 whenever we want like we’re wizards.
But why take our word for it? In partnership with Viz, Nerdist News is giving away three 30-day trial memberships, which you can win simply by heading over to our contest page and entering your e-mail address (complete official rules available at that page). Just think – you can free yourself from the shackles of cable programming, watch the network debut of Bleach The Movie: Fade To Black this Sunday at 8PM ET / 5PM PT, and have a 24/7 stream of anime flowing directly into your gray matter.
Note: In order to enter this contest, you must have a PlayStation 3 and/or a PlayStation Network account.