Animax UK: Why don't we like it?

Rui

Karamatsu Boy
Administrator
I was inspired to create this thread following a discussion in the streaming thread where the news that some of Anime Limited's excellent film back catalogue would be appearing on Animax UK was met with horror rather than delight. Animax UK have a huge image problem amongst anime fans in the UK, and it's making things much worse for itself by steadfastly ignoring fan feedback.

They don't want our opinions, clearly, but that doesn't stop us giving them anyway! I want this thread to outline the fixable problems we're seeing with Animax's service, and give constructive feedback on what would make us change our minds about them if they reached out and listened to their market.

I'll start the ball rolling with my own experience. Over the years I have become a streaming addict and I pay for subscriptions on several sites. I love new things and I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where I can pay for subscriptions to multiple sites without financial hardship.

Because I use streaming so avidly I feel confident in saying that Animax UK's service is not adequate for my requirements and I don't use it, even though they're paying providers for exclusive content and fancy apps. This post collects the reasons why.

1. Their sales message is strong but their homepage is confusing.

Visit the Crunchyroll homepage. It's got news, clearly labelled recommendations and a streaming schedule so you know exactly what's available and can dive straight in. It sells you on the product first, then if you see that a show you want is locked to premium members when you click in you can make the decision to subscribe or wait a few days for the free version. You feel immediately engaged by the content, not the platform, and it encourages you to think about what the service is offering for the money you're spending. I'm an anime fan, not a Crunchyroll/Animax fan, so the anime is what I want presented to me first and foremost.

Visit the Viewster website. They have a non-intrusive pop-up advising that they're starting up subscriptions soon, but the front page is loaded with content, recent updates, simulcasts and other things. I actually think they could improve it further in several ways but the point is, I arrive and immediately know I can watch the latest episodes of hot new shows like Arslan Senki and Prison School there.

Netflix is a bit of an outlier as it relies on its massive brand power to go straight into the pricing right on the first page instead of showing the user the content. Incidentally, I don't have a Netflix subscription.

Finally, Animax UK's website. All I see is a huge picture of the main character from Bleach. Ok, Bleach is popular, but it's an old show and the splash isn't telling me anything at all about what the site is offering (in fact, it's telling me that I should leave the site entirely and get an app in order to watch stuff I already have on DVD). I scroll down and mouseover the three highlighted shows only to see garbage information about an airdate in Eastern (US) time and have to go right to the bottom of the page to see the simulcasts, most of which are not simulcasts at all. I used to get an unskippable splash screen on every page telling me to subscribe so it's a slight improvement, but I still find the site bewildering.

2. Their 'simulcasts' aren't simulcasts.

I know 'simulcast' is a keyword and will attract people to the site, and I'm sympathetic to the delays UK publishers face. Anime airs on different dates throughout Japan anyway, so it's reasonable to accept a few days' delay for new episodes. But that's not what Animax is doing. They're licensing things over a month after they air and posting the episodes up whenever they feel like it, often weeks after the show has actually finished and the rest of the world has moved on. It seems strange to market content as simulcasts when they're so far behind; technically they can say that if they post episode one while the series is still airing in Japan it's a simultaneous broadcast but it really goes against the spirit of the term. There's also a consistent problem with series still being unfinished well after the show has finished airing entirely. It's not fun for users because we have to deal with all of our international (and pirating) friends spoiling the plot twists weeks in advance of being able to catch up.

3. Their free/premium model is frustrating and unfriendly.

My usual modus operandi when trying out a new service is to test out their free offerings and upgrade to premium if I like what I see and want to get more involved (or lose the ads). Animax's free service is so frustrating that I have never once been tempted to upgrade - in fact, I stopped watching their free streams at all and tell myself anything they license is unavailable in the UK. Why is that?

Crunchyroll has made an enormous success of their premium streaming service and I think at least part of the reason is that they organise it so almost everything is free (anime fans are stereotypically young and poor in this country) and then you pay for perks such as ad-free service, early access to simulcasts (which are almost always prompt) and better quality video. It's a no brainer - the premium service is a simply fantastic deal for those who can afford it. Catalogue titles have inherently lower value since you're offering content that is already widely available at that point. I'm a collector and I don't get any additional value from paying to stream content I already have on Blu-ray on my shelf.

Since Animax's model is 'reversed', they're asking me to pay for a service I don't want or need (the back catalogue) so I am less inclined to upgrade from the free service. Cash-strapped young people are probably also less likely to upgrade. Anime is flashy and for most people it's exciting when a series is brand new and they can follow the content as it's being created, alongside their friends in the US, Japan and beyond. So why is Animax's free simulcast service so weak compared to all of its competitors across the globe?

It's not cheap, either, considering what you get. On Crunchyroll I get hours of prompt, brand new content each week for my subscription fee. Animax is effectively offering me a couple of delaycasts each season, which I may or may not even be interested in, yet charging so much that it's sometimes cheaper to wait and buy the BDs for a better experience.

4. It is close to impossible to watch anything on the free service without missing episodes.

Is this a deliberate sales tactic? Their 'reversed' free-premium model (new content is free for a few days, then it goes into the catalogue for premium users - I think) is extremely punitive already but when it's combined with a service which publishes no schedule on its site in the first place it becomes downright aggravating. You're very likely to miss the first few episodes because information about new delaycasts is published so sporadically - and not even high up on the front page - that it's difficult to anticipate it. They don't even tweet the details for their own simulcasts, relying instead on retweeting news posted by third parties from time to time. In contrast, Crunchyroll's regular automated tweets for every single new episode (coupled with immediate feedback about any delays) make their Twitter account an invaluable resource.

Then they upload the episodes haphazardly because they're so late, which means you might suddenly have six new episodes to watch over a few days. Not everyone has that kind of free time. And forget about it if you happen to go on holiday - you'll definitely miss episodes.

Ok, that's how television works (or worked, back when I was a youngster) but there's no reason that VOD has to be subject to the same artificial limitations. By the time the news about the newest delaycasts had made it to most people, the first episodes were permanently locked away for subscribers only. And if you can't see the first episodes, there's no point in watching at all. Perhaps I have a bad personality, but when I miss an episode because the service it's on made a mistake, opening up my wallet to give them money isn't usually my first reaction.

5. The countdowns on their site are confusing.

The Animax website has no published schedule, even for delaycasts, but it has a timer on every new show. The problem is that it is completely non-obvious what this timer is for unless you read the FAQs. When it's a free episode, it indicates that you have that many days left until the show is locked to premium subscribers, and when it's a non-free episode, it's how many days you have left until it becomes free. I think. As this works completely differently to the other anime streaming sites, it implies that the episode will be removed entirely after the expiry date on the paid or free version is reached depending on how you read the information. If that's the case, even a paid subscription isn't enough to cover a holiday away from the site so it all feels pointless. It's an overcomplicated system and even reading the FAQs doesn't make me feel confident that I know how it works.

6. They have a bad reputation which they don't even try to address.

I have read more complaints by customers who have tried to pay and been burned than I have seen positive reviews of Animax's service. It seems the only way to resolve most problems is to telephone them during business hours, and there's no damage control at all. This is a market full of young, passionate, nerdy potential customers and we are accustomed to being treated well; on every occasion I've approached Crunchyroll's support team they have bent over backwards to resolve my problems swiftly and professionally. Yet bad feedback about Animax overcharging or being difficult to deal with is all over most anime forums and they don't seem to care; in fact, they even reportedly block people who say anything negative about them on Twitter rather than responding. That's not how you do social networking in 2015. If they want to act like a faceless corporation, they need to delete all of their social channels outright and push updates through their website instead rather than giving us this inconsistent treatment and pretending to listen. I'd rather they brought themselves up to date and engaged with the fans properly, of course.

7. In spite of all of this, they insist on licensing exclusive content.

The ultimate problem. None of my complaints would matter if Animax stuck to catalogue content or only licensed titles which are already available elsewhere; the market could speak for itself and if they're correct about what customers want, they'd still make money. But Animax is locking away content from other streaming sites and delivering it in a way which isn't working for customers like me. If they want to be the only place in the UK you can legally watch a given show, I feel that they ought to be ensuring all of that show's fans are encouraged to view it through their service instead of resorting to other methods or missing out entirely.

--

Ok, that's all for now. Have I missed anything?

I know I whined a fair bit but this thread is not for general ranting about Animax UK and their documented customer service failings. There's already a separate topic for that. Please try to keep it constructive otherwise I'll have to split the topic.

R
 

Lutga

Mad Scientist
Think you've summed up most of my concerns with them there,

My main issue boils down to: I already pay my subscription fee to CR and am very happy with the level of service and wealth of content they offer. Seriously, you could watch anime 24/7 on CR for a year and still not have watched everything on there.

So, with that in mind, if another service wants to come along and convince me to part with my cash, they're going to have a pretty good sales pitch. And Animax don't - they have a handful of catalogue shows I've already seen, and literally a couple of new shows that aren't even available promptly. So I'd effectively be paying my sub fee for probably two shows at most, and then I'd just be wasting it. And that's not even touching on the ethics of me paying a service that a) I don't believe in and seems like it could close down at any moment and b) is actively cock-blocking other streaming services from acquiring stuff.

I feel bad about knocking them, but seriously, it's a joke - streaming is a business for the big boys, and if you can't put in the money or effort, then get out of the pool. Viewster have shown real dedication here, and while I still think they have a lot of faults, at least you can see their passion and drive and you know they're working to address stuff. Animax on the other hand feels like a corpse barely hanging on to life - I just can't justify spending money on something that has practically zero value when you compare it to Crunchyroll.
 
As a pursuer of free content (saving my money for discs), Animax is useless to me for one overriding reason. Episodes so late that they come after the free window has closed so free users never get to see them full stop. Who can watch a show that way? The last season that I did use them, back when Tokyo Ghoul was streaming along with Rail Wars, on more than one occasion I 'had' to go elsewhere to catch up on missing episodes, and I gave up on Tokyo Ghoul halfway through for that reason. When a legitimate service makes you see illegitimate means as a preferable alternative, they are doing something very wrong. I decided not to use them at all following that season.
 

NormanicGrav

Yume no Shima Shinen Kōen
AUKN Staff
I pretty summed up some thoughts on my blog a week or two ago. Thought I tried to balance the argument I should really add some more criticism to it.

Pretty much what I said is that the catalogue is interesting but everything else is just bad.
- Subscription isn't worth it for the small amount of content. Plus some of the shows have flawed subs thanks to Kaze (i.e. Bakuman).
- The way they treated customers via support (i.e. the infamous cancel option from back in January)
- Simulcasts aren't Simulcasts

Other things that I haven't mentioned is the lack of notice for new titles or even a news feed dedicated to this stuff. I had to actually look on the website constantly to see if they've gotten something new. The Free stuff is pointless considering it hasn't been treated well enough and they're even so far behind that it's pointless to even use when everyone else is already 5+ episodes ahead.

Like Rui said, what bugs me the most is that Oh Dear has exclusive rights to various Aniplex, Kadokawa and TBS shows that really could've appeared on Crunchyroll, Daisuki and Viewster (I know Kaze owns the rights to the Aniplex ones, but c'mon). I made a list and here's what they got:

Aniplex
- Magi: The Kingdom of Magic
- Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
- Mekakucity Actors
- Nisekoi
- Nisekoi:
- Persona 4 the Animation
- Persona 4 the Golden Animation *this (alongside Durarara, Gundam Reconguista and Terraformars are the only shows that are available elsewhere)
- World Conquest Zvezda Plot
Kadokawa
- A Dark Rabbit Has Seven Lives (via Anime on Demand)
- Date A Live & Date A Live II
- Maken-Ki! (via Anime on Demand)
- Maoyu
- The Mystic Archives of Dantalian
- Nichijou: My Ordinary Life (via Anime on Demand)
- Problem Children
- R-15 (via Anime on Demand)
- Red Data Girl
- Student Council Discretion Level 2
TBS
- Beyond the Boundary
- Busou Shinki
- Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb
- The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior
- Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!
- Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! Heart Throb
- My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
- My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO
- Photo Kano (via Anime on Demand)
- Rail Wars
- Sasami-san@Ganbaranai
- Tamako Market
- To Love-Ru Darkness (via Anime on Demand)
 
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Rui

Karamatsu Boy
Administrator
Thanks Grav, the news thing drives me mental too. If their own website isn't telling me about their shows, how am I supposed to know? It floors me that they don't even bother posting their own news on their own Twitter account (but of course, they periodically tweet about the price, because we all have money burning a hole in a pocket we want to spend on some nebulous service which doesn't explain what it does).

When a show is delayed (or doesn't air for a week) Crunchyroll usually posts a small note about it on the series page to warn viewers so they don't get thousands of support requests. Animax says nothing, and I guess nobody complains because delays are the norm there anyway, not the exception. Little things like that done proactively would make a huge difference in how they come across.

I thought it was my fault somehow when I missed shows but if they really are uploading content so slowly it misses its own free viewing period that's pretty infuriating. Anime titles tend to have ongoing plots; we can't just dip in and dip out without seeing all of the episodes in many cases. I think back when I streamed Magi there was more than one occasion where an episode would be glitched - they'd eventually fix it, but the free viewing countdown would never get reset to actually let people watch the fixed version in time. I'm still annoyed I never saw every episode of Magi even now.

R
 

Smeelia

Thousand Master
I think I generally agree with the above and most of the key points have probably been covered.

I guess this has kind of been covered above and maybe it's more of a reputation/communication issue but I think the thing that bothers me most about Animax is that they seem to want to compete but would prefer to do so by undermining the competition rather than providing a decent service.

Exclusivity deals are a part of that, it doesn't feel like they're trying to get good content and make it accessible for viewers so much as that they're trying to block things off and hold people to ransom. Since they're not really saying anything or engaging with viewers, they're basically just grabbing up content then hoping people will pay for it. They don't seem to have any strategy to encourage return customers other than hoping those people are desperate enough to get the show legally that they'll pay for the poor service as the only option.

The business with Crunchyroll being unavailable on UK Playstation services was probably another example. Rather than compete with Crunchyroll, they just signed an exclusivity deal and hoped that would force people to use them. There's no effort to talk to the fans, there's no effort to make their service worthwhile. They've just crafted something (barely) functional and then hope to basically trick people into paying for it.

I think a lot of people would be willing to support more than one streaming service (even if it might mean alternating which one they're subscribed to), Animax seem to think they just have to be the only option and they also seem to think that's all they have to do. What they should be doing is trying to improve and provide a place that people want to visit. The content doesn't have to be exclusive if people like the service.

I'm not saying it's completely wrong to have exclusive content but it shouldn't be the only thing that encourages people to use your service. People should be there because they like what you're doing first and for exclusive content second.

I can't help wondering if Animax is just lacking staff/resources in certain areas. They don't seem to have a well considered overall strategy, they don't seem to have any community/public relations people at all and I'd have to wonder if they have people to actually develop and improve their website and services (it wouldn't surprise me if they barely had enough to maintain things). It's almost like there are gaps where they have people licensing things but without anything in place to make the most of the licenses.

I'd be interested to know if anyone at Animax actually feels that their service is decent. I suppose maybe we're better off not having a community relations person whose job is to tell us how great Animax is, I suspect that would be an extremely difficult task. It would be nice to get some genuine discussion and some sort of commitment that Animax actually want to be a worthwhile service though.
 

Rui

Karamatsu Boy
Administrator
I think one mistake a lot of content providers make is assuming that anime is interchangeable to the fans; if they have exclusivity over the newest hot properties, it draws the fans in regardless of their personal tastes and loyalties.

What it actually means it that someone who has been wanting to watch two new upcoming shows in any given season is suddenly faced with having to subscribe to two different services if they each license one of the shows, which is a poor deal. Crunchyroll licenses so much content that most people can probably justify their subscription easily enough (it would be a rare season where I was only watching a single show there). However, when you're only licensing a few series then your audience is going to be limited to fans of those titles. There may be zero crossover between them and at that point you're asking people to pay several times £4.99 for a delayed, unscheduled, chaoscast of a single title which will be out on DVD a few months later for twenty quid anyway. I can easily afford the £4.99s but I don't feel it's worth the money. Many cannot afford the £4.99s.

If Animax just abandoned all attempts to 'simulcast' at all and stuck to catalogue titles and dubs as their niche, I think they would do very well with their existing audience and avoid antagonising all of the people who are being blocked from seeing true simulcasts of their favourite titles. Trying to attract people who want to watch dubbed catalogue titles by holding brand new subtitled anime to ransom behind a failing system doesn't make sense to me.

R
 

Shiroi Hane

Dragon Knight
I've had a subscription since pretty much day one; I took advantage of their "deal" for Anime on Demand subscribers (a two week trial and half off the first month, although I got only one or the other since a month later I was billed half price - not 6 weeks later as you might expect) and was miffed when shortly after new customers then got three months (IIRC) at half price. I upgraded to their reduced price for 6 month subscriptions and still had it until a month ago when my debit card expired and was replaced.

I only ever used the PS3 app and there have been months when I've not used it, or opened it, couldn't figure out what I'd been watching and put Netflix or CR on instead. Browsing titles is awkward. It does not keep track of what you've watched. Marathoning is an exercise in frustration as navigating from episode to episode takes multiple button presses (back to the list, down or up and across to the next episode, select the episode, tick that I'm over 18, down and across to OK...)
 

msgeek

Magical Girl
No show me your dubbed shows button.

I'm not going to click every show to find out what is available dubbed (by the time I worked my way through I'd have forgotten most of them anyway). If this option existed (depending on the results)there's a reasonable chance I'd spend a fiver as an impulse buy.
 

IncendiaryLemon

Captain Karen
AUKN Staff
msgeek said:
No show me your dubbed shows button.

I'm not going to click every show to find out what is available dubbed. If this option existed (depending on the results)there's a reasonable chance I'd spend a fiver as an impulse buy.
To be fair, CR could also use that.
 

msgeek

Magical Girl
IncendiaryLemon said:
msgeek said:
No show me your dubbed shows button.

I'm not going to click every show to find out what is available dubbed. If this option existed (depending on the results)there's a reasonable chance I'd spend a fiver as an impulse buy.
To be fair, CR could also use that.
To be fairer netflix kinda sucked at it too last time I tried it too. Although if as is mentioned in this thread Animax is aiming the service at dub watchers then it makes sense to tell them what they can get rather than allowing the general consensus to persist (at least in my head) that there may be one or two but pretty much nothing out there for dub watchers...
 

st_owly (witch)

Time-Traveller
Most of you have covered the important points already, but for me it boils down to "why on earth would I pay more than CR costs for a worse service?" Anime streaming sites are always going to have to compete against fansubs. CR realises this and therefore makes their (free) service as easy as possible to use. I will always use CR over Daisuki for example. Meanwhile, Animax's free service is so terrible that I treat any of their exclusives as unlicensed, as I have given up thinking that every episode of a "simulcast" show will be available on it.

The way to hook people into subscribing to a service is to make the free offering good enough that people want to subscribe (See CR, Spotify for example). Putting all your content behind a paywall and having an abysmal free option won't make people open their wallets, it'll just make them even less interested in paying, and if the "simulcasts" are so patchy that you never get full shows simulcasted for free, people will and do just pirate things rather than paying.

As for trying to give them feedback, it's clear they're not interested. I tried once, and I might as well have been talking to a brick wall.
 

ConanThe3rd

Railgun
I suppose it's not really surprising Animax UK is what it is, it had it's Genesis in the utterly bollocked up Anime On Demand (IIRC) which presumably drove Poor Andrew to the brink with it's seasonal subscription system (that ensured that you never just got the full season of anime), delays (often instigated by poor behaviour by international arms of Viz/Kaze, with the French being particularly egregious about it) and Andrew having to justify everything even though we all knew it was a plate of BS on Toast.

In a way, Going from that to Animax was like going from Conservatives to UKIP; just the same but a little bit more crap.
 

Demelza

Adventuring Alchemist
AUKN Staff
I think a lot of what I'm about to say has already been covered, but the main issues I have with the service tends to be as follows:

I pay for my yearly Crunchyroll sub and love the service I get out of those guys. Now Animax are never going to pull me away from that (partly because my Crunchy sub is down to really liking their manga service), but they don't help themselves in making me want to have a subscription with them as well.

It's very rare that I actually know what is going on over at Animax now in terms of the titles they've gotten, what they're currently putting up, and what's free and what isn't. This definitely needs fixing because, as others have said, places like Crunchyroll let you know when new content goes up and why it isn't and when it will be if a delay hits. If you can't tell me when new episodes go up I'm not going to remember and will fall behind and therefore not be interested in using the service as much.

I think they also need to learn that back-catalogue titles aren't something that draws people in. For me I'm less interested in an older show/movie as I'll either have already seen it, want to own it on DVD anyway for far cheaper than keeping the Animax sub, or I'm just not interested. What I want from an anime streaming service is simulcasts - not delaycasts but proper same day as Japan, worst case day after Japan, simulcasts. I want to be able to discuss these shows with my friends as they're watching them and not everyone is going to hang around for a three-four, hell sometimes more than that, delaycast. If they could fix this and use social media to let people know that they've fixed it by announcing shows going up I think they'd fair a bit better.

I'd also suggest a change in video player on the site as I've never had a good experience with the one they currently have. I'm not sure if the apps work better or if a subscription with them makes things better, but as a free user I'm more often than not stuck streaming stuff in 360p even though my connection can handle 720p (it can probably handle more, but my chromebook doesn't like 1080p so :p), and clicking the 'HD' button never improves the quality. It's something that annoyed me from day one and something they have not fixed.

I also agree that exclusive content needs to stop as it just makes me dislike a service, not go and use it on a regular basis. I pick my services based on the service you give me and not based on the exclusive content you're dishing out - that comes second to needs.
 

Smeelia

Thousand Master
I have to admit, when I started streaming things on Crunchyroll I didn't really watch any simulcasts and was mostly there for the catalogue titles. I think there's a benefit to having catalogue titles, even if they're not quite as high value as simulcasts. Even these days I tend to watch a lot of titles from previous seasons along with the occasional simulcast. To be fair, I guess any title you get as a simulcast can also become a catalogue title once it's finished airing so that's probably the best option but even if you're getting a title later it can still have an audience.

I guess some titles are better than others, something that was just simulcast recently can still be worthwhile before a physical release appears and even then it can be useful for people who want to sample something before they buy it.

Animax seem to struggle with simulcasts so maybe they'd be better off putting their effort into improving their player and building a catalogue at their own pace with a view to getting back into simulcasts later. I guess they'd have to change their policy on what is free for users (though they should probably be doing that anyway) but I think it'd be a better idea than trying to put up simulcasts when they just aren't capable.

They could even put their effort into licensing shows that aired in previous seasons and are otherwise unavailable in the UK. That way they'd get something with unique appeal but without the pressure of having to upload on a schedule.
 
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