Times are always changing, and things have really changed since last year when I last wrote about how much it will cost to watch every anime show this season through this blog entry. But things took quite a drastic change from last year, thanks mostly to the creation of the double paywall known as Anime Strike, as well as the partnership between Crunchyroll and Funimation to the point where Crunchyroll has everything that Funimation has in terms of simulcasts with the difference being that the content is in Japanese on Crunchyroll and in English on Funimation. Then there's Daisuki entering the subscriber business, while it appears that Hulu is seemingly pulling the plug on anime (at least as far as exclusive content goes). So in light of all these changes that I'm doing an updated version of the blog I did last year at this time.

Much like with last year's blog, I'm obligated to explaining what the deal is with all these streaming services to my knowledge. It used to be that having just a Crunchyroll and a Funimation subscription would allow you to watch just about everything. But now, other streaming services are stepping in throwing money to claim exclusive rights to selected shows, which is getting frustrating. It's great to see that anime's profile is getting bigger and bigger with more companies taking interest, but at the same time it's frustrating to see everything so spread out. Now, there is Daisuki, Hulu, Anime Network, Netflix, and Amazon.

So now, I explain why exclusive rights is a huge deal and as a disclaimer, I'm not an expert in this kind of stuff. Basically, exclusive streaming rights are far more expensive than non-exclusive rights for obvious reasons as exclusive rights are a way for companies to gain subscribers because there would be no other way to watch such content (at least legally) as it deprives other services from being able to upload them. If a service like Amazon video back during its infant days gets only the non-exclusive stuff, then their profit margin is not expected to see a huge boost because most viewers would just go watch stuff elsewhere in places where they have subscriptions to. But with exclusives, they force viewers to have to sign up for their subscription or else miss out on the show, and thus a huge profit boost. So putting this in terms of how Amazon got exclusive worldwide rights to all of Noitamina's shows going forward, Amazon paid a ton of money to Fuji TV, which at the time reportedly set a record for most money paid for streaming rights to an anime show. From Fuji's perspective, it's an offer they couldn't refuse seeing that it pays the full cost of production with change left over, and one of the conditions for this huge payday is that Amazon has sole possession of the streaming rights worldwide. And from Amazon's perspective, they are seeing this as an opportunity to gain new subscribers to Prime among anime fans who haven't been using Amazon Video. Also, with Amazon being one of the richest companies in the world that they can afford to make such an investment whereas it would be too cost-prohibitive for the likes of Crunchyroll and Funimation that don't have much capital due to their focus on something with a niche market and only that.

The most recent development that sent huge shockwaves across the streaming business is the creation of Anime Strike back in January, and it was met with a ton of criticism. It used to be that just a Prime membership or their video only membership that was introduced last year was needed in order to watch these shows. But now, things have changed and while the rest of the world just needs a Prime membership like before, in the USA all anime shows became part of this add-on channel. The justification apparently was because "passionate fans" wanted to see that all anime is put together in one place. What this ended up doing is opening a can of worms as viewers saw this as a money grab by putting up that additional paywall. It's not so much the extra subscription than it is the fact that in order to purchase a subscription that you need to have a Prime subscription, and while it's a minor issue to those who regularly use Prime's benefits, for those who just want to watch anime that it was a big slap in the face (or more like a Saitama punch to the gut) having to get another subscription just to be able to buy the one they want. While asking Amazon to drop the channel is probably futile, what most people are asking for is a stand-alone subscription where those without Prime can just purchase Anime Strike, maybe at a slightly higher price to reward Prime subscribers. To me, this is the best compromise as with having this as a stand-alone service, Amazon can sell a lot more Anime Strike subscriptions because many refuse to pay for Prime when they have little use for the other benefits.

This season has seen a huge change to make Anime Strike much more appealing seeing that it had only Scum's Wish and Onihei exclusive to them, and this season the number of exclusives has quintupled to ten. Seven of these are coming from Sentai as now they are putting their licenses on Amazon's Anime Strike channel and only there. It used to be that all of their stuff would go on Crunchyroll with a title or two each season exclusive to places like Hulu or Anime Network. However, an opportunity was there for Sentai when Amazon approached them (or Sentai approached Amazon as nobody knows who called who) and offered them huge paychecks to stream their shows exclusively. The way things used to work is that Sentai buys the master license from the publishers (both for streaming and home video), and then Sentai would turn to Crunchyroll to stream their shows with Crunchyroll paying Sentai for the service to help pay for the licensing fees (in addition to home video sales), while Crunchyroll relies on membership fees and ad revenue to pay off their costs passed down from the publisher and Sentai. But with Amazon's aggressiveness, they pay Sentai a lot more than what Crunchyroll can reasonably offer with the condition being that it is exclusive to them (at least for a time as the Hulu exclusive stuff eventually ended up on Anime Network), and as such Sentai's profit margin looks much better, but they run the risk of reduced home video sales because of the limited exposure. Again, I am explaining this based on what I think, and not how it really works as I'm not an expert on this. Somebody from Crunchyroll explained that Sentai doing this was not entirely the result of their partnership with Funimation, and it had to do with this being given an offer they couldn't refuse.

So with this, I am going to break down all of the streaming services and get an estimate of how much it would cost you to give everybody an idea of how much our wallets are bleeding with the emergence of new companies entering the exclusive anime streaming business, as well as the constantly changing landscape. Seeing that America has it all that I'm speaking from an American perspective as most of us here are from the USA. It used to be that many of these places were just another place to watch anime. But now, these places are daring us to subscribe or miss out on watching those shows. So in estimating these costs, I'm rounding everything up to the next dollar amount for the sake of simplicity and the final cost will be a few pennies off.

Anime-Specific

Crunchyroll
Location: San Francisco, CA
Subscriber Plans: Premium ($7/month, $60/year), Premium+ ($12/month, $100/year)
Cost Per Month: $5 (P, annual), $7 (P, monthly), $8.33 (P+, annual), $12 (P+, monthly)
Exclusive Titles: Too many to list (many shared with Funimation carrying the subbed version)
This is the place that started it all and played a huge role in saving an industry that had been hanging by a thread. It came up with the business model that has worked for this industry by having a subscription system for the best experience while those without have a way of watching most of the stuff for free by waiting a week, watching ads, and settle for watching it in lower quality. It used to be that stuff was either on Crunchyroll or Funimation and only a show or two is exclusively in another place, but the landscape is so much different today. Now, Crunchyroll streams whatever stuff Funimation has licensed, as well as all the shows with limited marketability and obscure stuff that other licensors would not bother touching. In any case, just about everybody who regularly watches anime will have a Crunchyroll subscription and the premium one is really only for those who regularly shop at their store.

Funimation
Location: Dallas, TX (Flower Mound)
Subscriber Plans: Monthly ($6/month), Annual ($60/year)
Cost Per Month: $6 (Monthly), $5 (Annual)
Exclusive Titles: Too many to list (shared with Crunchyroll, but with the dubbed version only)
Funimation has gone through a lot of changes over the past four years when their subscription service started. They had a buggy player that that led to them giving the website a complete makeover, and once it ran smoothly they replicated Crunchyroll's policy starting in 2014. Then they offered sub-only subscriptions for those who didn't care about dubs, and they began the simuldub initiative to do dubbing as shows come out rather than wait for the BDs to come out. Then came the partnership with Crunchyroll that began with the Fall 2016 season where all subtitled content went to Crunchyroll and all dubs went to Funimation to mark a new era for this service. Pretty much, this means that a subscription is only good for watching dubs as everything airs the same day as in Japan on Crunchyroll, while there's a waiting period since Funimation will have to receive the source material before they can begin dubbing.

Daisuki
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Subscriber Plans: Monthly ($5/month)
Exclusive Titles: Mahoraba, Nagasarete Airantou, Dai-Guard, and others (all simulcasts are eventually available elsewhere, while some exclusive titles can be watched for free)
Daisuki used to be a free service, but now they have created their own membership service last fall. They operated under a similar system as Crunchyroll where members get to watch simulcasts on the same day while free members have to wait a week. Daisuki tried this with Long Riders last fall, and since then all of their shows with the one week membership-exclusive can be watched elsewhere (Tales of Zestiria on Funimation in the winter, and Cinderella Girls Theather, Granblue Fantasy, and Eromanga-sensei on Crunchyroll this season). Pretty much, the only reason to get this subscription is to binge-watch those shows from over a decade ago, so it's not worth getting as it doesn't appear they will be getting anything that's exclusive to them (at least on the same day in Japan). Not to mention, the shows can be watched in HD for free (just need an account), and the subscription means watching with fewer ads rather than no ads, and the ad load is pretty small to begin with.

Anime Network
Location: Houston, TX
Subscriber Plans: $7/month
Cost Per Month: $7
Exclusive Titles: Onigiri, Frame Arms Girl, Rin-ne 3
Anime Network is Sentai's own subscription service. With this service, the first episode is free, and everything else is behind a paywall where only subscribers can watch. While the catalog is pretty huge seeing that Sentai licenses a lot of stuff, unfortunately it is poorly maintained. The site is full of bugs, the player has issues, and their recent dubs just haven't been going up. That said, they have some exclusive content and this season, two shows can only be watched on Anime Network. In the past, most of their stuff would go on Crunchyroll, while a few shows would only appear on Hulu and Anime Network. But now things are different as most of their stuff is going on Anime Strike, while opting to have a show or two exclusively on Anime Network leading to further backlash.

Not Anime-Specific

Anime Strike on Amazon
Location: Seattle, WA
Subscriber Plans: Prime ($99/year, $11/month) plus Anime Strike ($5/month)
Cost Per Month: $13.25 (annual), $16 (Monthly)
Exclusive Titles: All Noitamina Shows from Spring 2016 onward, Most Sentai shows from Spring 2017 onward, Onihei, Re:Creators, Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, Chii's Adventure, Nanoha series (except Vivid), Ronja
This is the service that has been heavily criticized for its double paywall, but this season their profile increased by leaps and bounds. They got on the map by hoarding the Noitamina stuff for themselves, which is a high profile programming block that is intended to attract viewers who are not anime fans (though this doesn't exactly apply anymore as a number of shows recently aren't like that such as Saekano, Punch Line, and Nanana's Buried Treasure). When it first came out, only Scum's Wish and Onihei were exclusive to this channel, which made subscribing not worth it. However, their catalog saw a huge increase having paid a ton of money to Sentai for exclusive streaming rights to their shows. So pretty much, this is an essential service now that their catalog of exclusive titles has quintupled, but the bigger issue is the double paywall seeing that it's a big ripoff for those who have little use for Prime.

Netflix
Location: San Francisco, CA (Los Gatos)
Subscriber Plans: SD Only ($8/month), HD ($10/month), Ultra HD ($12/month)
Cost Per Month: See above
Exclusive Titles: Knights of Sidonia, Seven Deadly Sins, Ajin, Kuromukuro, Adventure of Sinbad, Perfect Bones, Little Witch Academia, ID-0, Fate/Apochrypha
Netflix has established themselves in the exclusive business for anime as well that all started with Knights of Sidonia back in 2014, and since then they have gotten worldwide exclusive streaming rights for a number of shows. But unlike with other places, their shows are only available after the season and not during the season. The one good thing about Netflix exclusives is that they all get dubbed with Netflix paying for it. In any case, it is only worth purchasing a Netflix subscription for one month at a time as episodes for these shows do not get uploaded until after the season as opposed to every week like everybody else.

Hulu/Yahoo View
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Subscriber Plans: Limited Ads ($8/month), No Ads ($12/month)
Cost Per Month: See above
Exclusive Titles: Chivalry of a Failed Knight, Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle, Matoi the Sacred Slayer (with Anime Network), most Viz shows (no subscription required)
Hulu is much different today as its free service has migrated over to Yahoo View, while Hulu became a subscription-only service. It still operates like it has in the past, except that now the free stuff is in a different location. That said, Hulu's presence in anime has significantly decreased that started with the purge back in the Spring 2016 season with a lot of anime shows leaving, and only a few shows coming. Sentai used to use Hulu for almost all of their shows that are not on Crunchyroll, while Funimation used Hulu as an alternative way to watch most of their simulcasts on the same day without a Funimation subscription. Viz still uses Hulu for their stuff where no subscription is required for same-day viewing, but now their shows are starting to appear in other places in addition to Hulu. Pretty much, a Hulu subscription is only useful for watching a few shows and they can all be watched for free on Yahoo View.

So now that I have broken down the services, I will calculate the total cost of being able to watch everything assuming that all services have at least one show that's exclusive to them on a monthly basis. On the low end, here is what you can expect to pay:

Crunchyroll: $5 (annual Premium)
Funimation: No subscription
Daisuki: No subscription
The Anime Network: $7 (monthly)
Anime Strike: $13.25 (Prime, annual)
Netflix: $2.67 (SD, cost is for one month seeing that they don't do weekly simulcasts)
Hulu: No subscription
Total: $27.92

On the high end if you find yourself subscribing to all services with the most expensive plans:

Crunchyroll: $12 (monthly Premium+)
Funimation: $6 (monthly)
Daisuki: $5 (monthly)
The Anime Network: $7 (one month)
Netflix: $3.33 (HD, cost is for one month seeing that they don't do weekly simulcasts, and anime isn't available in Ultra HD yet)
Anime Strike: $16 (Prime, monthly)
Hulu: $12 (No Ads)
Total: $61.33

Now, on the optimal end. You absolutely want an annual Crunchyroll membership, and seeing that I'm talking about just watching anime that the annual Premium is what to go with. Funimation has only dubs that appear weeks later, so ideally you won't need it. So far, all shows that have gotten the one week membership exclusive window appear on other places on the same day from the winter and spring seasons, so I can't see a Daisuki membership as necessary. For the Anime Network, it looks like there will be exclusive stuff there, so I'll put a subscription for that. Anime Strike is now a must moving forward as now their catalog is pretty sizable, and I'll go with an annual Prime membership and in some seasons, you could get by subscribing for only two months missing only a couple of weeks. Netflix, one month with HD video is ideal. And with Hulu, no need to subscribe to that for simulcasts. So with that, here's how much it will cost you to watch anime per month on the optimal end.

Crunchyroll: $5 (annual Premium)
Funimation: No subscription
Daisuki: No subscription
The Anime Network: $7 (one month)
Anime Strike: $13.25 (Prime, annual)
Netflix: $3.33 (HD, cost is for one month seeing that they don't do weekly simulcasts)
Hulu: No subscription
Total: $28.58

So last year, the total for the ideal route is $36.25 a month, and this year it's actually lower at $25.58 a month. The savings comes from the fact that you can now drop the Funimation and Hulu subscriptions, while there apparently is going to be no reason to get a Daisuki membership, and still be able to watch just about everything. Despite the expensive double paywall for Anime Strike, the money saved by not needing to subscribe to Funimation and Hulu greatly eases the pain, and things would be even better if Amazon ever puts up a stand-alone Anime Strike subscription plan where those who don't need Prime can get a reasonably-priced subscription.