Going to DramaFever, you will see this message:
My reaction was the same as when Neon Alley was bought by Hulu: Disappointment, disgust and anger.
My feelings were justified when I checked a few websites to find out the reason behind the shutdown. I wasn’t aware of this but Warner Brothers (now Warner Media) bought DramaFever two years ago. One of the site’s cofounders left after the buyout was finalized last year. There is speculation spreading that Warner Media bought DramaFever never planning to allow the service to continue because of the licensing costs alone. Apparently, the U.S. licensing costs jumped from $800,000 to $1 Million per season after the buyout was completed. DramaFever’s library of mostly Asian Dramas was likely another factor in the shutdown. It is fair to say DF’s model was not sustainable so…yeah. Still, the immediate shutdown with no notice was a bad move.
It is no secret the Media Giants based in the U.S. have been buying into streaming services that carry programming outside the U.S. Yes, the same content providers who LOL’d at Netflix 15 years ago are have been desparately trying to buy into the industry in recent years. Sweet irony. The networks are late to the party and have learned that these days, most Americans just don’t want to be bothered having to tune in every week to watch new TV episodes. Likewise, most also do not want to have to keep buying movies they’ll only watch once or twice. Why do either when you can just watch them on demand via streaming services?
So, no the networks are desperately trying to get in on the action just to survive. Many networks have already launched their own streaming service in recent years as they move to adapt to the new trends. Services like Netflix and WWE Network do not have free streaming but the tradeoff is there are no ads. Crunchyroll, DF, Viki and Funimation have free streaming but the tradeoff is there are ads and you have limited viewing options. As for why the media giants are buying into streaming services, their bottom line is threatened by the very services they are now turning to just to survive more or less. What’s in it for them? Licensing deals. Remember: Netflix got a long-term exclusive deal with Disney several years back. Not just Disney movies and Disney Channel content but ABC, Marvel and LucasFilms, which are also owned by Disney. That deal set the industry on notice and sent the message on demand services are the future of distribution content. Now they’re looking to get in on it like I said before.
Neon Alley and DF are two of the many casualties of corporate greed and more notable streaming services are sure to follow sadly. I feel for longtime users of the site. The site was indie until two years ago when it was bought by Time Warner, which then completed its merger with AT&T last year to become Warner Media. The shutdown effective immediately was done without any warning or notice to users though the message has promised more info to come “soon” and promises of refunds to subscription holders. I was considering getting a DF subscription down the road but clearly that’s not happening anymore. There were some shows DF held exclusive streaming rights to and the new content they added in recent months is why the sudden shutdown is so baffling. This leaves Rakuten Viki and Asian Crush as the two remaining streaming providers for Live Asian programming in North America.
The silver lining, of course is Asian programming is definitely here to stay. Kocowa, which had originally been a part of DF had been bought by Viki a few years back and took the licenses they had with them to Viki. Viki is the largest provider for live Asian programming and has been for some time. It is regarded to some as the Netflix of Asian programming. I was watching The King’s Woman on DF and fortunately Viki carries it also. I had watched two K-Dramas on DF but fortunately I finished them before the shutdown. Unlike DF, there’s no getting around the Ads on Viki even with an Ad Blocker but I’ve decided to put up with the 5-minute interruption per episode until I can get a paid subscription.
Unlike some folks I know, I refuse to use less legal means for Live Programming or Anime. If I don’t have the money, I’ll use the Free Version. I haven’t watched Crunchyroll since my subscription ended because I know when I do get a new subscription, I can just catch up on the 6 to 9 shows either still in progress or since ended. I don’t want to sit through the ads because unlike Dramas, Anime episodes are 25 minutes long on average. The Ad breaks are harder to not notice compared to live programming, which is 45 minutes on average. At the end of the day most viewers hate ads so…yeah.
Anyways in closing. I do worry the buyouts, takeovers and mergers will drive folks to use less legal means like many do for anime. DF (along with Viki and AsianCrush) provided a legal option for folks to get their fix on Asian programming. Big picture, DF was a drop in the bucket. Its loss will be felt for a while but as far as I can tell, Viki is not going anywhere anytime soon. I’m feeling pretty good about getting an anual subscription–hopefully sooner than later.