Anime’s Footprint Grows as Digital Network Debuts

Aug 30, 2004  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Alan Hill

Special to TelevisionWeek

The Anime Network, dedicated to the form of Japanese-produced animation whose influence has been felt in media as diverse as children’s trading cards and adult graphic novels, launched July 27 as an advertiser-supported digital tier network in 55 cities with 10 million households. It is expanding the impact of the anime genre on the adult animation market.

ADV Films, a North American distributor of anime product, is already releasing an average of 30 new DVD titles per month, which have been available on 54 cable and satellite systems around the country via video-on-demand since fall 2002. Now Houston-based Anime Network is offering free delivery in the hope of reaching an ever-growing segment of the adult audience.

“We are not a programmer for little kids,” said Kevin Corcoran, Anime Network president. “We are going to say that loudly: Anime is for the teens-to-young-adult crowd. It runs the gamut from stories in which the hero fights robots to love stories. All the great stories of literature run through anime.”

Produced by animation studios in Japan, anime is an art form easily recognized by its characters’ large, prominent eyes. The genre sprang up after World War II but did not really penetrate the American market until 1967 with the debut of “Speed Racer” in syndication.

The rise of DVD and Web sites-Anime Network research claims there are 30 million of the latter devoted to the genre-has increased the buzz, as has the popularity of various anime-influenced comic books and television shows such as “Yu-Gi-Oh!” and “Gundam Wing.” This helped the Anime VOD service secure platforms on cable systems owned by big multiple system operators including Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner. The latter includes its Los Angeles-area systems, which serve areas including Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley, Garden Grove in Orange County and Gardena in the South Bay.

Costs to VOD subscribers vary, but usually it’s $6.95 per month for 20 hours of programming. The average subscriber tunes in 10 times per month.

Popular titles include “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” the story of a human father and son versus machines in post-apocalyptic Japan, and “Excel Saga,” a quirky comedy poles apart from the action stories in a “South Park” kind of way, Mr. Corcoran said.

While 70 percent of the Anime Network audience is male, heavily in the 15- to 34-year-old range, there is a growing female audience.

Anime is marketed with print advertising in hip or cult magazines, but Mr. Corcoran said information about the genre is most widely spread through word of mouth, as well as through in-store promotion by video retailers.

Mr. Corcoran said he thinks the time is right for an advertiser-supported 24/7 anime network, and sponsors from Toyota to Altoids agree, already signing on.

“Anime is a huge part of worldwide pop culture,” Mr. Corcoran said. “Our goal … will be to bring a whole depth of anime to our audience.”