Hulu's Got Anime

A few days ago I caught an episode of Charlie Rose which presented guest Marc Andreessen. I found the conversation highly informative, and it got me to thinking about how the struggling anime industry could use online content delivery methods to do precisely what Andreessen was suggesting.

I thought to myself, "wouldn't it be great if there was a website that streamed all the anime for free?" Yes it would. But then somebody might say, "oh but then why would anybody want to pay for it?" The fact of the matter is that a lot of people don't pay for their anime. It's pretty easy to get it online for free already, and that seems to be one of the primary reasons why the industry is having a hard time.

Andreessen mentions how Napster, once the bane of the music industry, was really just an opportunity for the industry to cash in on the downloading rush. Instead, they shot themselves in the foot by crushing Napster. The same case can be made for the anime industry, in that they should use this as an opportunity instead of fighting it. If you end up distributing the content online, for free, and then offer the option of purchasing that content, you just might have a solution here.

That's when I remembered Hulu. I've already been watching a few things on Hulu now and then, and it seems that they are doing very well if they can afford those high-profile TV commercials. What I hadn't looked into was if they had any anime. It just didn't occur to me yet, but lo and behold, as of this time they have 23 anime series available!

Here is a list of currently available anime series on Hulu, which you can find in their Animation & Cartoons section. Listed alphabetically, the "watch" link takes you to the appropriate Hulu page, while the "info" link leads to the show's Wikipedia entry. Update: I went back and check which series where subbed or dubbed and made note next to each below. Enjoy...
Granted, they are not all full series. It also looks like they are all dubbed many of them are dubbed, while some are actually subbed, which makes it less appealing to me personally (thanks to Atwood for correcting me on this). Which doesn't mean that this won't change in the future. "Streaming rights to the subtitled/dubbed version of this series aren't available at this time, but we will continue to pursue both dubbed and subtitled versions of all anime series," informs a message at the top of some series' episode lists. If that is true, it is certainly good news to me. Admittedly, I haven't have at by now checked every single series for subtitle availability, but it is a safe bet at this point that looks like most are dubbed.

This is a step in the right direction, however. If anyone has the resources to pull it off, it's Hulu. While not exactly the implementation I envisioned for this service, it's close enough for now. I still think that a purchasing option for both DVD and digital format for home computers and mobile devices is the way to go. In the future, I imagine they will be adding more shows to their library at as well. It would only make sense.

It's hard to say whether this will have any impact on the anime industry, especially since there's no purchasing options at this stage. Only time will tell, and if enough people start watching anime in this manner, rest assured the folks at Hulu would notice. For now, we can just sit and wait. Or maybe create our own more competitive service?

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