The Future of Anime is Now

An Interview with Mike DuBoise COO of Funimation

With Netflix, the age of watching TV changed forever. It allowed anyone with an account to have access to thousands of shows, movies, and documentaries. FUNimation, the leader in Anime localization, is trying to do the same for Anime. Their new FUNimation Now service will allow users in the US and Canada to gain access to the full library of shows and movies. With this new platform, FUNimation will launch a series of new apps and ways to watch while keeping the streaming service that Anime fans of the past would only dream about.

I was lucky enough to chat with Mike DuBoise about FUNimation Now. In a candid talk, he goes into what makes FUNimation Now so unique, how it will compete with other streaming services, and what fans of Anime should expect from 2016.

funamation insert 1

CGMagazine: Can you tell me how the FUNimation Now streaming service will differ from what FUNimation already offers?

Mike DuBoise: I think, for us, a lot of what’s going to be different is we’re going to be able to add in a lot more ways for fans to customize what they want; to give them more control over their viewing and over their choices around what they purchase.

CGM: Can you explain how that customization is going to work?

MD: We’re not going to be rolling that customization out until the summer, so some of it is still being designed. There’s a lot of options that we’re testing right now. One of the big changes is being able to sign on seamlessly and be able to integrate the streaming service, the commerce service, and a social component, tying it all under a single sign-up.

CGM: Will the new FUNimation Now app allow you to sync your shows between all devices as you move between them?

MD: Yes, it’s going to be able to sync and pick up where you left off.

funimation insert 2

CGM: Why the choice to completely drop the original FUNimation app and bring it to new devices rather than expand the existing app?

MD: For a couple of reasons. One: the apps we have out in the marketplace, certainly from a global standpoint, we didn’t feel could optimize the experience that we’re trying to design for the new service. The new service is going to be powered by an all-new engine, so what we’re doing right now is retiring those mobile apps starting in February, and then going to expand onto some devices we are not currently on. Then, later in May, we’ll be updating our console app. As the summer starts, we’ll be changing our entire web experience. Once we do that, it’s going to power the ecosystem that we’re putting in place right now. So you’ll see the mobile apps that come in February be much better apps from a functionality point of viewing experience than what we have today.

CGM: Now let me ask you, is the back-end going to be the same for the app that’s out now compared to FUNimation Now, or is there going to be a completely new back-end system that you’re implementing?

MD: We’re going to be retiring the whole back-end, and it’s going to be powered by an all-new system.

CGM: If people are already subscribers to FUNimation at this present time, will that transfer over to a FUNimation Now account, or how will that transition work?

MD: Yes, we’re going to transfer everybody to the FUNimation Now. Whatever service they have now, they will be seamlessly transferred over to Funimation Now.

funimation insert 3

CGM: If people are already subscribers to FUNimation at this present time, will that transfer over to a FUNimation Now account, or how will that transition work?

SEE ALSO:  Steam's Second Annual Anime Sale Live Now

MD: Yes, we’re going to transfer everybody to the FUNimation Now. Whatever service they have now, they will be seamlessly transferred over to FUNimation Now.

CGM: I didn’t see any word about FUNimation Now having a free option, are you getting rid of the free option in the move to the new service?

MD: We’ll still have the free option for FUNimation Now. There’ll still be an ad-supported option like what we currently have available.

CGM: Will you still have all the same kind of streaming options, where you have anime coming on the service a few hours after it appears in Japan? Will that be continued going forward with FUNimation Now?

MD: Yeah, we’ll continue that. So, we’ll have the simulcast within minutes or hours of when it was broadcast in Japan. We’ll also have the broadcast dubs, where we’re taking that simulcast and about four weeks later and taking several of the shows and dubbing them in English and streaming them to the fans.

CGM: Was the move to a new platform a result of the competition in the streaming space from places like Hulu, Netflix, etc?

MD: I think, for us, we felt like we wanted to deliver a much better experience to the fan and we felt like we could design it [better] knowing the fan the way we do and knowing what we wanted to give to them. We felt that retiring our site and launching a new one was the best way to go. I think that what Crunchyroll does, what Hulu does, what Netflix does is impressive. Those are all fine services, and they serve your needs. So this isn’t really about what they’re not doing; it’s really about our vision of the kind of experience we want to create for fans, beyond just the show. We know that our fans don’t just watch, they live the anime lifestyle, and we also went out and did a lot of research for what they want and what they need for a streaming subscription membership service. There’s going to be a lot of things that aren’t being done by anyone in the marketplace that we’re launching. We’re doing a lot of the things that Hulu and Netflix are; we’ll have 4K available, we’ll have simultaneous streams, a lot of the basics, but there’s some stuff that we’re designing for the anime fan in mind.

funimation insert 4

CGM: Can you talk about any of that stuff right now, or is it more of the summer?

MD: Yeah, that’s stuff I can’t really [talk about]; that’s going to be later on, so stay tuned for more information.

CGM: The process of streaming dubs as the show is airing must be a hard one, but something that anime fans love. Why do you think you are one of the only companies doing this right now?

MD: We know from a lot of our research that our fans like the English dubs. Until we started doing the broadcast dubs, the only opportunity to get an English dub was when it came out on Blu-ray or DVD—and that’s some 15 months after the simulcast of the subtitled version. So what we’re trying to do is, again, respond to our fans. We, being the only anime studio that has a full production team in house (you know, we have voice actors and productions teams here everyday recording), we found a way to get to the market quick and turn these around. We changed a lot of our internal processes to put that dubbing and translating and scripting process up to get those out sooner and satisfy those fans that have requested an English dub with a streaming option.