In 2006, a group of graduates from the University of California, Berkley founded Crunchyroll as a for-profit website where interested individuals could watch streamed videos of East Asian shows for free. However, much of the content on the website consisted of illegal copies of licensed content, which meant that it could not reach its full potential so long as it clung to its initial practices. Unlike a lot of the other websites that sprung up at around the same time, Crunchyroll managed to make the transition in 2009, making deals with content creators and committing itself to removing illegal copies of licensed content. Since that time, the website has continued its efforts to provide interested individuals with convenient access to East Asian media through the Internet through a number of means as well as a number of partners.
How Does Crunchyroll Work?
Interested individuals can pay Crunchyroll a small fee on a periodic basis in order to gain access to a wide range of East Asian media, which includes but are not limited to anime, manga, and live action dramas. Since the website’s catalog encompasses thousands and thousands of hours of material, there is no shortage of shows for those with the interest as well as the time to watch them.
However, much of Crunchyroll’s appeal for a lot of people lies in the fact that its professional translators translate episodes into a number of languages within a short time of their broadcast in their native countries, meaning that they can keep up with the latest shows at their own pace. Better still, Crunchyroll is available on a wide range of platforms such as Android, iPhone, and Internet-enabled TVs, meaning that its subscribers can watch their shows anytime and anywhere using whatever it is that best suits their personal preferences.
Why Has Crunchyroll Been a Success?
There are a number of reasons that Crunchyroll has been a success:
First and foremost, there was a sizable segment of consumers who are interested in East Asia media, whether that meant Japanese anime or Korean live action dramas. This is proven by the fact that at around the time of Crunchyroll’s launch, there were numerous groups with the skills as well as the interest to fan-sub the latest episodes of the latest shows before sharing them with other like-minded individuals within mere hours of the initial broadcast. In other words, there was an incredible demand for East Asian media at the time, which remains the case in the present.
Unfortunately, the supply was not there to meet that demand for a number of reasons. For example, bringing a show over from East Asia to the west was often a high-risk but low-reward prospect because of the costs of translation and dubbing as well as the costs of actually distributing the finished content to the end consumers. Furthermore, East Asian media were more obscure at the time, meaning that it had less profit potential, particularly if the people responsible for bringing it over alienated potential customers by choosing to lower costs with subs rather than dubs. As a result, few shows were being brought over, meaning that western interest in other shows was left unsatisfied.
Changing times resulted in changing technologies, which solved a lot of the obstacles that had once stood in the way. For example, compare the challenges involved in streaming content over the Internet versus the challenges involved in distributing physical mediums and then convincing local stores to stock copies for sales. Unsurprisingly, the latter was more expensive, more complicated, and more time-consuming, which in turn, meant that it was much more difficult to distribute content in the past than in the present.
Finally, the increasing ease of communication brought like-minded individuals together. As a result, a lot more people became aware of East Asian media, which in turn, resulted in a lot more people becoming interested in them. At the same time, this concentration of interested individuals over the Internet resulted in a concentration of talent as well, which is what enabled the fansubbing in the earlier part of the period and its commercial counterpart in modern times. Simply put, once the Internet enabled interested individuals to gather in large numbers, the process began to snowball.
How Does Crunchyroll Challenge Traditional TV?
With that said, it is important to remember that Crunchyroll is no more than a small part of the enormous industries that exist to entertain countless consumers found in countries all around the world. However, in spite of its relatively small size, it is nonetheless a challenge to traditional TV in its own way, which is something that it shares with a lot of the other websites that provide similar services.
In short, most consumers have few choices when it comes to traditional TV because their local markets tend to be dominated by either monopolies or in some cases, oligopolies. As a result, they are limited to choosing from what is offered by their local cable provider, which in turn, is dictated by what is profitable base on the profile of the general consumer. For people with interest in more unusual content such as East Asian media, this meant that they either had poor access to what they wanted to watch or had no access at all in particularly unfortunate cases.
With the rise of streaming, they could choose from more and more options made available to them through the Internet instead of being limited to whatever their cable providers were willing to offer them. While Crunchyroll is an excellent example of this phenomenon, it is by no means limited to East Asian media, which is part of the reason that there is such a wide range of websites providing similar services for such a wide range of interests in modern times. This might have cut into the profits of cable providers, but it has also been a boon for consumers who have gained increased control over their media intake while keeping their costs in check, which is not something that could have been said about their predecessors in earlier periods.