Crunchyroll Moving Towards an All Premium Future
Ad-supported viewing is on the way out
Not just a month since Crunchyroll and Funimation finally began to merge, the former is making moves to change the way we view anime. The free ad-supported tier of watching simulcast is slimming down in scope next week. In an article on their support site, Crunchyroll announced that starting with the Spring 2022 anime season, each new episode of anime will no longer be available for free a week after release.
In the past, Crunchyroll has made each episode of a simulcast show available free to all non-premium users. This has been supported by video advertising in place of the subscription. Now, users will only get the first three episodes of new simulcast shows for free, and only for a limited time. If you haven’t been able to budget for a Crunchyroll Premium subscription at the $7.99 rate before, you will be asked to if you want to continue watching anything new.
This is clearly a move to push their paid plan and move as many otaku as they can off the free service as soon as possible.
What has prompted Crunchyroll to remove the ad-supported tier?
There are probably a few reasons Crunchyroll has decided now if the time to drop their ad-supported tier. First and foremost is that they have effectively killed off their greatest competition, Funimation, by eating them. Now that there is no one to clearly in their space, they can simply do things how they please in the space. They believe that now that there is no competition, everyone should simply accept Crunchyroll Premium and subscribe. This is an oversimplification of their position, but a position they are taking.
Secondly, the ad-supported tier may not be cutting it. If you are a Premium Subscriber already, you likely don’t know what the ad-supported experience is. For most anime, Crunchyroll runs a singular pre-roll ad before the video plays. After that, there are three places where a mid-roll break occurs, after the OP, in the middle of the episode, and before the ED. Crunchyroll might be finding that the experience that would lead to profitability with ads is too disruptive to maintain a stable user-base. Or too many are using a workaround to access the free tier.
Finally, this may have been in the cards the whole time, and they just want to change their subscription model for the sake of change. Its obvious that a paid subscription model is more profitable than an advertising supported one. This arguably feels like an experiment, at least in the limited time nature of the free tier simulcast release schedule. Perhaps this lasts for the spring season only, and when the data returns that they cut off the nose and did in fact spite their face, something changes for the summer season. It just all looks bad from a timing perspective.
Is the market still there for Crunchyroll?
One of the more upsetting things about this announcement is the announcement itself. This wasn’t a standard blog post on the frontpage of Crunchyroll, or in their main blog. This is a half-hearted release in their help section. They announced this two days ago, and everyone is finding out about this now. We are roughly a week from when the spring season will start, and free tier users are about to be out of luck if they find something they like. Its quite frankly disappointing that something this impactful is being swept under the rug.
I imagine that this will have a mostly positive impact on Crunchyroll’s bank account. There are definitely going to be a decent percentage of users who has either let a subscription lapse, or otherwise were on the edge until this push to Premium moved them. Otherwise, I think this really helps the high seas market. Otaku who have been mostly content to get their anime a week late with ads, all in an effort to get it conveniently are going to look elsewhere, and right now there is nowhere else legal for a lot of the series they are promoting.
All in all it feels like we are slowly moving backwards to a mostly bygone era of the early 2010s and before when legally (and conveniently) streaming your anime was done on the high seas.