In a dramatic acceleration of its release schedule, Viz Media is moving up both its Naruto Shippuden anime and manga releases, much closer to the release in
The acceleration of release is most aggressive on the anime streaming front, where 24 episodes of the uncut, subtitled Naruto Shippuden anime will be made available on Naruto.com in the first two weeks of January. The new anime streaming initiative kicks off on January 2nd, when eight episodes will be made available, with eight more added each Friday until the catch-up is complete. Beginning on January 15th and every Thursday thereafter, a new episode will be added, only days after its broadcast in
On the manga front, Viz is carrying out a reprise of its Naruto Nation program (see “Interview with Viz’s Gonzalo Ferreyra 2007”), releasing 11 volumes of the Naruto manga, volumes 34 to 44, between February and April. At the end of that catch-up process, the American manga volumes will be released once a quarter, roughly six months after their release in
The anime move is not only a big change in the timing of making new episodes available, it’s also a change in how they’re distributed. Viz currently distributes its anime episodes free through third party streaming sites such as Hulu (see “Anime on Hulu.com”) and Joost (see “Online Anime Options Proliferate”), and for sale via Download to Own venues such as iTunes (see “Top Viz Media Titles on iTunes”) and Xbox (see “Viz Anime DTO on Xbox 360”). Viz plans to continue to use those third party sites, but will use Naruto.com as a way of launching the more aggressive distribution of new episodes of its flagship series.
The acceleration of Naruto manga releases in late 2007 worked well for Viz; per volume sales did not drop as some expected. Viz Vice President Sales and Marketing Gonzalo Ferreyra described the results in an ICv2 interview this fall, saying that the publishing surge worked “as beautifully as we could have hoped, beyond our expectations” (see “Interview with Gonzalo Ferreyra 2008, Part 1”).
But while the release of three years worth of Naruto volumes in late 2007 worked well for Viz, results on the sales of manga from other publishers were not as positive; the rapid releases of so many volumes from the #1 manga series seems to have accelerated the trend toward a sharp divide between manga bestsellers and the rest of the pack, with weaker titles now not garnering the same kind of sales they would have a couple of years ago. Naruto was the #1
Simultaneous global release of new anime episodes has become the holy grail for anime producers as the most important way to combat illegal downloading on BitTorrent sites, which generate no revenue for the producers. By releasing new episodes on a nearly simultaneous basis in
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