April 6, 2007
Distributing to the US Market: Comparison to Mobile Content
Posted by Devin
The majority of Japanese media is brought to you by companies that were started by fans: whether it was fansubs on generation-made videotapes or scanlations before Bittorent was available, it was those early fans decided the best way to share the content by licensing and distributing it. Through time, early companies have succeeded like ADV Films, which other companies have not like Comics One and Studio Ironcat.
On the flip side are the number of Japanese firms that have successfully marketed their products over here. Anime-wise, Bandai and Pioneer (now Geneon) have had very successful releases over here. Namco Mobile has been a killer content for the phones over there, their Pac-Man game a top-5 killer.
The role of Japanese companies marketing their content in the US market is remarkably similar to Japanese mobile media market of 2002. Japanese firms such as Faith, For-side, and Index, took their mega-hit mobile content into the US by starting divisional properties or they purchased local content providers. With some successes, they had quite a few problems. Some Japanese companies have since left the US market as of 2006–2007, their ideology of ‘tackling the market’ lost.
So in lieu of recent news of another Japanese media firm entering the US market on their, here’s a summary of why its different. Perhaps we can learn from those mobile content providers after all-
Distribution is going to be different
Like the closed wall garden from carriers, the distribution of content is a big differentiator, whether it be in print or electronic. The limited number of necessary book distributors combined with retail limitations have shaped the manga market. Disruptions due to retail bankruptcies, logistical issues most recently mentioned by Viz’s Alvin Lu, and our censoring policies are all reasons that anime and manga licensers need to understand distribution rules are going to be different here than in Japan.
Copyright is not about who, but what rules
The mess that is mobile music royalties is a bit more completed when compared to book publishing and anime DVD Authoring. But the role of a localized licenser just putting out DVD’s is almost over. Can I get it on iTunes? What about streaming it? What if I want it on my mobile phone? Can I market better with podcasting? New ways to market and distribute content are coming to us every day, and if legal ways are to be provided, then we need more way we can adapt and change the content. And hopefully, it won’t be as DRM-laced as RIAA, MPAA, or JASDEC insists it is. Otherwise, there’s little incentive stop downloading via Bittorrent.
Lack of market knowledge
Ultimately, its about the product and the differences between the US and Japanese market. Japanese mobile companies came over with their month billing models, stood firm against the label licensees & carriers who wanted individual transactions. The stability of monthly subscription revenue never came and individual ‘carrier’ transactions are how most kids think of purchasing a ringtone/ringback.
A manga title like Yotsuba&! is marketed over in Japan as Seinen, a subset of manga that is targeted for an 18–30 year old male audience. Looking at the title and cover you may think that it actually aims for a younger, female audience. Its going to take some educational time to teach the distributors and sellers for this market.