Crunchyroll ends free back catalogue streaming in Canada
I think I need to enroll in a click bait class because it’s kind of hard to write a post when your title basically sums up the situation. Maybe, “This ONE WEIRD THING Crunchyroll is doing will ENRAGE Canadians,” “CANime? More like Can you not-ime under new Crunchyroll rules,” or how about, “Crunchyroll: Canadian loons are anti-anime.” Okay, that second one was terrible and it would kill my already poor SEO.
Anyway, as the title tells you, anime streaming service Crunchyroll is about to change things up for Canadians. Starting February 1, all catalogue content on the site will be exclusive to paying members. Those looking for the latest shows are in luck, however. All of the site’s simulcasts will remain free, with individual episodes available for 13 weeks before falling under paid membership.
I’m sure you’re going to want to know why, and that’s why Crunchyroll has posted an FAQ that makes it sound like Canadians are exclusively paying for the expansion of their infrastructure:
Over the past 5 years we have adding many library titles while simulcasting 50 shows every season. We’ve also expanded the free streaming service across mobile and living room devices, including Apple TV, PlayStation and Xbox consoles. We want to be be able to continue building the best collection of anime, even with the increasing cost of content and fluctuations in the Canadian exchange rates.
They offer a more straightforward answer on their forum:
As we strive to continue improving our Premium service on a global level, there are many factors that must be considered on a region by region basis. For the past 5 years, despite fluctuation in the Canadian exchange rates and the rising cost of licensing and streaming anime, the price of Crunchyroll Premium has remained the same. Our goal is to continually improve our Premium user experience and deliver the highest quantity and quality of anime and manga titles to all subscribers, including the latest premieres straight from Japan, without raising the price of our Premium service.
So yeah, the loonie is in the dumps and only expected to get worse. Instead of increasing the price for premium members (which is $6.95/month for their standard service), Crunchyroll would rather convert some of those using the free service. They didn’t explain why this change is exclusive to their older shows, but presumably simulcasts bring in enough traffic to make the ad rates worthwhile.
While Crunchyroll has almost always held certain shows behind a paywall, this is the first time they’ve locked their entire back catalogue anywhere. That has raised some eyebrows, as there are other countries with currencies worth less than ours, but with normal free streaming privileges. You have to wonder if Canada is just the unfortunate test market for a new business model. Some on their forum even speculate that this could be the first step towards the company eliminating free streaming entirely. While I won’t go that far, it does make you question what’s next. Plus, if the loonie ever decides to find company a little higher class than Oscar the Grouch, will Crunchyroll reverse their decision? If all goes well, it’s hard to believe they’ll want to disincentivize their premium memberships.
That said, I’m not sure how successful Crunchyroll will be with this initiative. If you’re using the site and not a paid member you probably fall under a few camps: A) you get your fill with the free service, B) you can’t pay for it (lack of credit card if you’re younger, or just financially), C) you don’t use the service enough to justify another subscription (a.k.a. you’re cheap, a.k.a. me), D) you don’t want to pay for something you ultimately don’t own, or E) you’re a new fan who’s not really sure anime is for you. Crunchyroll will surely convert some of those into paying members, but I doubt it’ll be a huge percentage.
New fans are where I think this shift will hurt Crunchyroll. If you’ve had a friend recommend you a wacky cartoon from Japan, there’s a high likelihood that show will have been finished for a while. After all, good friends don’t suggest shows that have the opportunity to shit the bed. So you Google the name, find out you’ve misspelled it, use the correct spelling, and scroll past the Wikipedia/ANN Encyclopedia entries to find streaming options. The first will usually (hopefully) be legitimate. Then there’s sure to be 500,000 options that aren’t. As someone that hasn’t seen the show, are you going to pick the one you have to pay for, or the one that’s free? Right.
One thing I’m dreading is the inevitable Canadian inferiority complex x the patented Canadian entitlement syndrome that will plague comment sections everywhere. You know the people. The ones that have never loaded up Canadian Netflix but instinctively claim it’s garbage because it’s not 1:1 with the American version they VPN every night. They’re going to have a fun time with Crunchyroll. While I’d view this change as a bad thing, not all of the free services are being eliminated and there are free alternatives. The situation could be far worse.