The UK DVD Market – Why the wait?

The DVD market is a weird and wonderful thing these days. With a lot more variety and a greater range of genres to pick from things seem to be on the up and up. But is this really the case? There are advantages and disadvantages of the UK being further down the food chain than our big cousin, Mr. USA, The focus of today’s article is the waiting time between Region 1 and Region 2 DVD’s. Are we getting the short end of the proverbial stick? Or are things better than 5 years ago? AUKN have dispatched me to find out.

So we all know the story, you find that new hit show from the latest anime season and you fall head over heels in love with it. Thankfully some other fan subbing otakus share your thoughts and it gets licensed in the USA. Great news! It sells well in America and now some company here decides to pick it up too. Well that’s all fine and dandy, but from it being announced to sitting on your shelf can take a considerable amount of time.

It’s understandable that some fans feel frustrated; many of them decide to use the cheap imports available from the states. With a strong pound to dollar value and a region free DVD player all the headaches can be put to rest. But we British are a patriotic bunch and would rather support our own, or at least that’s the general consensus. But when you take a look at some of the release dates from Revelation then really, it’s easy to understand why.

Volume 3: 18 February 2008
Volume 4: 19 May 2008
Volume 5: 18 August 2008
Volume 6: 17 November 2008

9 Months between 4 volumes, that’s just ludicrous! Granted these dates aren’t set in concrete but even going by estimates it boggles the mind. So this raises two questions. Why is there such a long delay? And is there anything that can be done to get around it?

The best place to begin with is the industry itself and there is no one better to ask than Beez Entertainment. I spoke to Andrew, head of marketing, to try and shed some light on these issues.

Q) Andrew, in your opinion, what is the biggest problem/delay/setback in getting a DVD from the various markets to our shores?

A) The biggest delay is licensing and material acquisition – if you want a title then it is far more cost efficient (to the power of 3 or 4 times minimum) to wait for it to be released in the USA so you can acquire subs, dubs etc without large costs. Otherwise the time it takes to have dub and subs done etc mean that you may well be releasing in parallel to the US with similar costs to what they had. If you end up in this situation – it usually means you’re almost certainly going to be making a loss….unless you did it alongside somewhere like Australia or such.

Runners up are when materials are not sent on time or you want to do something really special for the UK market box-wise or such.

Q) Would you say the UK industry as a whole suffers because of this lag? Due to people importing rather than biding their time for the shows to come across here?

A) You know – in the old days the lag used to be a great problem – almost insurmountable at times. Now though I think the face of the problem has changed greatly – now the gap between releases is very small. You can have the latest titles often in the UK no more than 1 or 2 months after the US – a lot like films in fact!

Now the problem is the fact the dollar is so weak against the pound – what motivation do fans have to buy a UK title versus the cheaper import? That’s the problem we now face on the importing frontier I think, which is a step up on what it used to be at the very least!

Q) So what about online distribution. Is this the way forward? For example a pay per episode download service.

A) Difficult question there actually as it depends on a variety of issues it has to be said for many reasons. For one there is no business model that has been greatly successful outside of the iTunes shop and XBox Live so far! So it comes down to a matter of seeing what the pioneers in the area take as well as how well it works out for them commercially.

My personal belief is it’s not so much “the way forward”, but it is at the very least a path to attract certain people to the series who would try it for just the video content that they could download and own. It’s my firm belief that at the end of the day that a sizable sum of people still want something nice, shiny and tangible they can own instead of just having the files on their computer.

Q) Finally, any of your own thoughts or questions that you may want to put forward to the readers?

A) I’d just like to thank everyone who has so far stuck by the UK market despite the problems it may have had – we are all trying to bridge the gap here so support is greatly welcomed! And to those who don’t at present – I hope given time we’ll be able to persuade you that it is worthwhile to help us out :)! We’re trying our best as with .hack//Roots to offer extra incentive but we need your help to keep going with this!

Now that we have a response from the industry, let’s see how it compares to what their customers think. I went to the AUKN forums for some answers.

Q) In your opinion, what is the biggest problem/delay/setback in getting a DVD from the various markets to our shores?

A1) By Kupoartist – Local distributors being local arms of Stateside / European companies with skeleton crews of PR people and little else. We always wait for what the rest of the world deems worthy of licensing and get hand-me-down cover-art, DVD masters and what have you as a result, so it hardly feels worth that wait. Whilst the comparative size of the UK market makes it hard to imagine any kind of different scenario, there could be a hell of a lot more to be done in terms of consolation. In fact, where other industries (say, Computer Games) give European users more extras to keep us happy, the Anime industry tends to give us less.

A2) By Hopeful_Monster – Don’t have any real problem with the more recent series getting to our shores, as the lag time is a lot shorter than it used to be. At least they generally let you know if it is going to be released over here before it is over there. My main gripe is with the older series, eg Scrapped Princess, El Hazard or Mahoromatic season 2, good series but unlikely that we are going to get it over here.

Q) Would you say the UK industry as a whole suffers because of this lag? Due to people importing rather than biding their time for the shows to come across here?

A1) By Akaten – Not really, I do import some shows, but I tend to give UK companies some breathing space to sign ’em up first, such as with Flag, I hope Beez will release it here, but if say after 6-12 months it doesn’t look likely I’ll import.

A2) By Mcicy – I always import, it’s cheaper. I have a multi-region DVD player and it saves waiting for the UK releases.

Q) So what about online distribution. Is this the way forward? For example a pay per episode download service.

A1) By CitizenGeek – I much prefer having the physical product. However, I think such an idea would be fantastic.

A2) By Chaz – Probably the physical product. If we paid for the file download, and be able to keep on PC/burn to CD, then I may do it for the larger series. But I’d rather have the actual product.

And finally some messages from the fans to the industry;

  • “If I’ve got £20, I’ll spend it on nine hour wrestling boxset over four episodes of anime, or maybe 12 episodes of imported anime. Your stuff is too expensive!”
  • “Prices need to be cheaper. I understand they can’t be dirt cheap as I’d like them to be. But really, they don’t have to be £15-£20 either. How much money do they think we have? I’d happily pay £10 for a 5 episode volume. I think that’s fair. ”
  • “If you can, find a way to get around the American licensing problems – negotiate with the American and Japanese industry if possible, and get them to agree on something more reasonable. If not, then more (box sets), more (extras), more (anime).”

So that gives you some idea as to where we lie with the whole situation. If you’re expecting a clear cut answer in this article then – sorry to disappoint – you’re looking in the wrong place. With a subject like this there is no clear cut answer, that’s why it makes it so tricky and so frustrating to try and get to the bottom of things. For some clarification in my findings I turned to my fellow AUKN writers, and I agree with most of the points made.

There is a network of problems that are found not just in our market, but over the whole industry. Contracts, timelines, products, money – These are all linked and if one goes wrong then everything else is pulled down with it. But that’s not to say that the UK market is in doomsday, no three horses of the apocalypse here. If anything it’s at its highest since the late 90’s boom. But we can’t always rely on new titles to bring in the money. Every year there are classics going out of print and unless its uber popular then there’s not much we can do about it.

So what do we need? Well I can only guess. But what can we do? Well we can continue to buy rather than import (Price and Time pending) or we can wait for a box set (Product pending) or we can disregard everything and simply download (Morals pending)

But on the whole, what we really need is more people like Andrew from Beez. If the companies aren’t involved with their customers how can they know what they want? (This works both ways) With the minute budgets of companies, the internet and forums really are a god send and to not use them as a marketing tool is just idiotic.

Make of this article what you want. But it’s interesting to see what is happening on both sides of the fence. There is a way forward from this, but what that is we just don’t know. I would like to thank both Andrew of Beez Entertainment and the users of AUKN.

I will leave you with this piece by a fellow writer, Martin.

“Don’t give up on us! The industry’s suffered all manner of setbacks over the years but it’s getting better, slowly but surely.”