Less than a year after launching Anime Strike, a branded subscription streaming video on demand service, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has shut down the service, reports Kotaku. Amazon launched Anime Strike last January to Amazon Prime members in the U.S. for $4.99 a month, following a seven-day free trial. The ad-free subscription offered more than 1,000 episodes of popular anime series from Japan, as well as exclusives, action series, top movies and dubbed series, including Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga, The Great Passage, Chi’s Sweet Adventure and Parasyte.
Subscribers to Anime Strike can now access those same programs for free with their Amazon Prime membership, saving close to $60 a year. If they are not Prime members, they can subscribe to Prime Video for $8.25 a month to watch their favorite anime programs.
When Amazon originally launched Anime Strike, Amazon vice president Michael Paull said they felt the anime audience in the U.S. was sizable and underserved.
‘With anime in particular, there’s a strong, passionate audience that is underserved by traditional pay TV,’ Paull said at the time. ‘We tend to focus on our customers and their needs, and our big difference is that we’re using the data we have as Amazon to know the type of programming that would excite our audience.’
Why the big change? While Amazon was vague about their reasoning, we presume that the channel turned out not to be as popular as originally thought. When Kotaku asked Amazon for a comment, they were told, ‘We have decided to move the curated catalogs of Anime Strike and [Bollywood channel] Heera into Prime Video so that more customers can enjoy this content as part of their Prime membership.’
Amazon competed with services like Crunchyroll and Funimation. Crunchyroll offers a free membership as well as two premium memberships, priced at $6.95 and $11.95 per month, respectively, to get ad-free access to all anime, drama and manga, along with other perks. Funimation offers a similar ad-free anime subscription for $5.99 a month, or $59.99 a year, following a free trial, as well as an ad-supported, free anime streaming service.
According to SlashGear, this is a good thing for anime fans in the U.S. who were essentially hitting two paywalls to access the exclusive anime programming available on Amazon. First, they had to be Prime members, and then they had to subscribe to Anime Strike. Now they can just be Prime members or subscribe to Prime Video only to access their favorite anime programs.
It is interesting to note that Amazon felt its data supported the idea of a separate anime streaming video on demand service as a stand-alone anime Amazon Channel. That must not have been the case for Amazon to bail on the idea, just one year in. That said, Amazon is willing to take risks to try new products and services, and to tweak or discontinue them if they aren’t working. The latter seems to be the case here.
Anime Strike isn’t the only niche-based streaming video on demand channel to be shuttered recently. Last year at least three niche services – Fullscreen, Comic-Con HQ and Seeso – shut down because either the expected market wasn’t there, or the customer and content acquisition costs were too significant to make the model sustainable. It seems the more successful streaming video on demand services suit general audience tastes like Netflix, Hulu and CBS All Access or cater to a very specific and very large niche audience like the WWE Network.