I know there are a few large fans of Crunchyroll out there, and before you go grab your pitchforks and torches, let me clear up one thing. I support legal anime distribution whenever possible, but I’m not too good to say that I don’t watch fansubs. I do, live with it or stop reading here if you’re too good for me, but I’m not an idiot, I know it’s not legal, but so is rolling through a stop sign, but everyone still does it. My problem is that anime distribution is going in a direction I’m not happy with. That said, I think that all legal online distribution is going in a direction I’m not happy with. Crunchyroll is just a good example; feel free to replace Crunchyroll with Hulu, YouTube, or your choice of streaming media providers.
I had intended this to be a post about how anime showing on Crunchyroll has less of a chance of being licensed by distributors that use physical media, also known as DVDs. But, Section23 has come back and picked up many series already streaming on Crunchyroll. This is good, and I’m happy to see that, and will end up supporting those series with physical media purchases, but not with streaming.
So Crunchyroll’s existence came into being by what I like to call a form of extortion. They pretty much took fansubs which were illegal anyway, and started showing them on their site without a word of apology. After a while of that, and catching a lot of attention, they stopped doing streaming illegal fansubs because someone gave them some money, and they had to start following non-shady business practices. A few Japanese studios signed up, and the site as we know it today was re-kindled into the simulcast outfit they’re known as today.
Welcome to now, not only do we get anime on Crunchyroll, Youtube shows it, and so does Hulu, and we can’t forget The Anime Network. So after all this rambling, here are my issues with streaming media, which can encompass much more than anime.
- Bandwidth: In America, the FCC defines broadband as a minimum of 768kbps. This is, for all intents and purposes a joke. Just try and watch a streaming site with that tiny number and you will get the dreaded buffering ring of pain. Now I realize that most of us are sitting here having a good time on much faster than that. But, I have a really good connection, and I start videos and need to walk away from them so they have time to buffer. Nothing ticks me off more than the buffering ring. Add to this that more and more ISPs are considering metering your bandwidth, and you’re looking at a terrible proposition as shows get larger because of HD. And if you want to watch them more than once, which personally I do quite often, you basically need to re-download it. Metered bandwidth is less the fault of the streaming sites, and more ignorant Brass at the ISPs trying to nickel and dime the public some more.
- Ownership: This is the elephant in the room. When you watch a streaming show, you see it, and then it’s gone. Additionally, you can’t put it on your computer, your TV, or your iPod/Pad, streaming apps aside of course. If I like something enough, which I do with anime, I want a copy for me, I want something that I can show my wife, my cousin, or my brother-in-law. Had I streamed the copy of Chu-Bra, how do I show my wife she’s wearing the wrong bra for her bust size? I can re-stream it, but that sucks; see Bandwidth above. This is a proposition that I have no desire to undertake. I like to collect my anime, and that requires physical media. Not to mention that if a streaming site decides to no longer host the show you want to watch anymore, the game is over if there isn’t a physical media license as well, which again is a problem that DVD ownership corrects.
- Not just anime: What’s lovely about the streaming proposition for what I like to call, “Big Media,” is that they now have you in their walled garden. This is great for them, because someone will come up with the idea of paying per watch.
To conclude this rambling mess, I’ll say this. Streaming puts the control of the media out of your hands and into the media provider, and your ISP. I fully believe that digital delivery will become the norm someday, but I’m going to pass until I can own the media, without DRM by the way.