ADV's Anime Network has announced the launching of a new ad-supported broadband service that will stream up to 20 full episodes of classic and brand new anime series via the Anime Network's Website. Up to five new episodes will rotate through the site every Thursday and the Anime Network Online service will present the series in their entirety with new episodes appearing each week. The programming will be a mix of modern classics such as Rahxephon and Saiyuki as well as new releases that have not even been released on DVD such as Gainax's Gurren Lagann, the first episode of which is available for viewing now even though the first Gurren Lagann DVD won't be released until February 26th, 2008.
Other new series slated to run on the Anime Network Online site include Ah My Goddess: Flights of Fancy and the subtle and intriguing Kurau: Phantom Memory, which is currently being released on DVD (Volume 5 came out on December 11th).
Anime series that will stream well before the release of the North American DVD such as Gurren Lagann will feature English subtitles as ADV is clearly making a major attempt to speed up the release of anime series to combat piracy. The lag time between when an anime series airs in Japan and when it is available in the U.S. and the cost of anime DVDs are the two most often cited reasons for the growing amount of illegal downloading on the Internet (see Arthur Smith's 'Open Letter to the American Anime Community' for a discussion of these problems).
Streaming anime series for free on the ad-supported Anime Network Online Website certainly solves the price problem, and providing subtitled-only versions months before the North American DVD release should make a big dent in the lag time.
Still to be seen is what impact, if any, streaming new series has on DVD sales (others have reported no effect, see 'Interview with Viz's Dan Marks').