In an open letter to the American anime community (see 'An Open Letter to the American Anime Community') Arthur Smith, President of GBH, the parent company of key anime studio Gonzo, reported that sales of anime DVDs in the U.S. during 2007 have declined 50% since the peak year of 2005.  In his letter Smith notes that his estimate is based on a study of VideoScan numbers as well as knowledge of what Gonzo titles have sold through Wal-Mart and consultations with other anime companies in Japan.  Smith also cites the train wrecks that have littered the North American anime market landscape over the past few years including Tokyopop's withdrawal from the market, the demise of Geneon as well as layoffs at ADV and FUNimation as further evidence that anime companies both in the U.S. and Japan are being stressed by market conditions that are having a global effect, especially since Smith argues that 'the Japanese anime DVD market is doing even worse than in the US and Europe isn't doing great either.'


What does Smith blame for the deteriorating condition of the global anime market -- illegal downloads, which he targeted in his original interview on (see 'Gonzo Exec Rips Fan Subs') and which is obvioiusly a major and growing problem (see 'Six Million Anime Downloads a Week').  Smith is clearly hoping that if anime fans realize the extent of the damage that the escalation of illegal downloads is doing to the industry they will act in ways that will aid rather than damage the industry that produces the entertainment they love. 


In his letter Smith also promises to work for changes that will alleviate some of the factors that lead to downloading.  He hopes to shorten the time between the date on which an anime series debuts in Japan and when it is released on DVD in the U.S., and he revealed that '18 months ago, I presented to various of the major players in Japan the idea of releasing a sub-titles only version of new programs for Internet-streaming one day after broadcast in Japan,' a position that has much in common with solutions offered by Justin Sevakis, former EIC of the Anime News Network, and other members of the American anime fan community.


Creating a legal (and reasonably priced) alternative to the rampant illegal downloading of anime series is obviously a key part of any solution to the anime industry's current problems, but many questions, such as how American anime distributors would fit into such a scenario, remain unanswered and many obstacles are yet to be overcome.