Earlier this month, we found out that Steins;Gate had sold over 100,000 units in the US, raking in a little than 4 million gross as a BD collection. This was an intriguing datapoint and posed two questions.
One, how typical is this result? Is it a generational occurrence? Annual? Monthly? Weekly?
Two, how is the US market for anime on disc doing as a whole?
Well, I have an abundance of amazon rank data for 218 unique US anime releases tracked over a 6-month period from January through June, 2016. Let’s dig into that a little.
Disclaimer: In this post I’m going to do some funky stuff with data that research has led me to believe I can reasonably do, but I don’t have any inside information and I could make mistakes here in a number of ways.
Note: ‘release’ can mean multiple versions of the same anime, i.e. BD and DVD versions.
The 200+ release size of the sample makes it more useful as an estimator of the overall market. Using my formula as an estimator for single releases can lead to a wide spread, but it’s unlikely to be consistently wrong over the entire sample by chance. There is still the risk of systematic bias at points, but the effects of randomness should be minimized.
So I took a look at all this data and tried to see if I could get predictions of performances over a similar space of time to the Steins;Gate release. In order to do this, I took the amazon ranks for the first 14 days of release (i.e. weeks 1 and 2 on sale) and used my formula to estimate how much the release sold in each week.
-A series with an amazon rank of R on a given day will sell S copies.
Note: The BD versions of Evangelion 3.33 and Boy and the Beast ranked so highly early on that direct predictions were impossible. For BatB, I extrapolated out just the second week, disregarding first-week data, which I can do because we’re increasingly discovering long tails capital-D dominate the current US Home Video discussion. And also, we’ll probably get official confirmation for sales on that release when hard numbers for June are released by Nash Info.
For Eva, I had some hard data to work with – it sold 23,058 that first week and was down to 1878 in its fourth week. I had reason to suspect, given the fact that it was a very old movie with a US release in perpetual limbo, that it would be top heavy, and I think those numbers bore me out, so I extrapolated the 1878 figure. 1878*52=97,656. This figure is more in line with what movie 2.22 sold over its multi-year lifetime (199,954 units on BD as of last reporting), thought the sequel selling the same as the previous installment is far from a given to begin with. I digress.
This process gave me predicted 1-year totals for each release, assuming BD sales trends. Where applicable, I multiplied these BD figures by a factor of 3 for DVD releases. In case someone new is reading this, let me just say that this model of DVD release behavior, it is not an assumption. It’s a projection of characteristics of the market I have observed and have concrete evidence for, but extrapolated into murkier territory. Thus, it’s a statement that is neither flawless nor groundless to make.
This gave me a complete set of predicted sales for first-half 2016 releases [doc link], but I also had the MSRP for all of them, so I decided to take a stab at gross profit while I was at it. Since the anime distributor makes half of each sale, it was as simple as taking the sum of (MSRP*sales)/2 for all releases. The result? About 70 million dollars.
Here’s some more points that arise from the dataset (ASSUMING IT’S SOMEWHAT VALID):
-About half of that projected figure is earned by the top 10% of releases (aka the top 20).
–Pokemon, Evangelion, Hosoda Mamoru, and One Piece each account for multiple releases in that top 20.
-56 of the releases project to sell 2000 copies or less. These project to gross, all told, 975,000 dollars.
–Since most of these are BD/DVD splits of 1-cour worth of anime, that puts a rough ceiling of worthwhile production cost of a release you’d project to be in this bottom tier at $975,000/28/12=$2900 per episode. That’s well less than the cost of a dub, and subs, below the cost of even the dogmeatiest licences pre-2007. You don’t want to see first-time releases of newer series here (cue sobbing over Space Brothers and Shonen Hollywood), and many of these releases aren’t new – rereleases of older TV shows or newer ones which merited a big-box version.
-97 of the releases project to sell between 2000 and 10,000 copies. These project to gross, all told, 13.7 million dollars.
–Here, the production costs start to validate dubbing if you think it’s going to go well – $13,700,000/48/12=$23,800 per episode. One can sub, dub, and pay about $10,000 per episode for the license while producing releases for that tier of popularity and maybe break even.
-If you’re keeping track, the bottom 75% of the market seems to be flitting around or under some hypothetical break even lines. This is not at all unreasonable for a publishing industry writ large.
-To compare with the elephant in the room, streaming giant Crunchyroll has about 750,000 paid subscribers chipping in about $60/year, which would give them an annual income of about $45 million to work with. Plus they make a much smaller amount of revenue from ads. Funimation/Daisuki/Hulu/Netflix/Amazon are a bit more of a black box with their streaming revenue, but ‘BIG SURPRISE’ if those numbers are any guide, it seems like the streaming market operates on a similar scale to its hardcopy predecessors. People have been corroborating that point for a bit now, so here’s another (albiet very secondhand) source pointing to that.
-I project 30 releases will gross 1 million before cutting the sales in half. Only 6 look to log sales in excess of $4 million:
Pokemon Johto League Champions Complete
Pokemon Movie 1-3 Steelbox
Naruto Shippuden s26
Berserk Movie Collection BD
Boy and the Beast BD/DVD
GitS New Movie BD
Subtract Pokemon Johto and you’ve got the projected 100k+ club up there, too. Given this list of all-franchises and a Mamoru Hosoda movie, it does look like those Steins;Gate numbers were pretty special. C3 was the highest-projected non-franchise non-movie release for this batch, at a mere 27k.