Anime of Tomorrow
VIZ Media’s Brian Ige talks about Neon Alley
I recently was given an opportunity to interview Brian Ige, the Vice President of Animation at VIZ Media about Neon Alley–the new, all-anime channel on the PS3. If you’ve been wondering what Neon Alley is about and some of the hows and whys of this new method of enjoying anime in America, I think this is going to be relevant to your interests.
Brian – I’ve been in the entertainment industry for approximately 14 years now, working in all facets of the business including sales, distribution, marketing, business development, & content acquisition. VIZ has been my home now for over 7 years, starting as a sales manager for both manga & anime, I was able to work my way up and now lead the day-to-day business of the animation group. Working in this space has been both challenging and rewarding, VIZ Media is constantly exploring new methods to deliver content to our fans in a meaningful way which is how we came up with the Neon Alley concept.
Marlin – Was the idea for Neon Alley inspired by anime being streamed on the internet on sites like Crunchyroll and Anime News Network or did its origins lie elsewhere? Please explain why this new–I would say “experimental”–anime experience has been done this way.
Brian – Neon Alley was created for fans as a supplement to the decline of anime content on traditional broadcast TV. We know that there are a lot of fans of dubbed anime content that continue to watch on TV based on Nielsen ratings for shows currently being broadcast. TV broadcast is still the best way to introduce new content to existing fans vs. having them try to find and discover the content on their own. On-demand sites are a very useful tool when fans know specifically what they want to see but not necessarily the best when it comes to finding new content.
Brian – At this time its not something that we are considering since there are already a few sites in the market that cater to the subtitled market like VIZAnime.com & Hulu. These hardcore fans / purists already know what they want to watch and typically prefer subtitles over dubs. The Neon Alley service wasn’t created to take the place of any existing services, it’s more of a supplement to the overall anime category, specifically the audience that continues to enjoy watching anime on TV.
Marlin – Of course it’s only natural that the majority of the titles on Neon Alley are licensed by VIZ, but you’re also showing Blue Exorcist (an Aniplex title). Do you plan to partner with any other companies like Funimation or Bandai to increase the number of titles on Neon Alley?
Brian – Definitely, Neon Alley was created to support the entire anime category. We will continue to have conversations with all anime studios and hopefully will be able to announce some new acquisitions for the channel very soon.
Marlin – I’ve noticed the majority of titles on Neon Alley are action / comedy / shounen series. How was this decision influenced by the audience that tends to purchase PS3s?
Brian – We’ll definitely be experimenting with different genres on the channel, ultimately Neon Alley wants to be the home of “great” anime content – strong story lines and high-quality animation, regardless of the genre.
Marlin – Are there plans to expand Neon Alley to other venues such as Xbox or PC or a rental system similar to Netflix? If so, when might we see such an advancement and if not, what needs to happen before we might see that kind of expansion?
Brian – I don’t have anything to confirm at this time but I can tell you that the release of the app is just the beginning for the service. We’ve been listening to requests & recommendations from members and fans, we will be incorporating some of this into the next phase of Neon Alley. Neon Alley was built for the anime fans so we will continue to do what we can to provide the best customer experience for our members.
Brian – Anime will always be a tentpole of this channel but as I previously mentioned we wanted to experiment with content that we felt had cross over appeal. The martial arts genre has always been popular among anime fans so we wanted to test some of that content on the channel. The feedback has been positive so far and fans seem to be enjoying it so we’re also looking at anime / video game inspired live-action content to add more variety to the channel.
Brian – Tiger & Bunny because I am a fan of the superhero genre and the Berserk Movies, both storylines are amazing and I think have very strong crossover appeal with audiences in the U.S. and Canada.
Brian – Neon Alley follows forums, message boards, and other fan sites to determine what fans are talking about as well as the popularity of new shows that would make sense for the channel. We also review ratings of shows currently on the channel to see which ones are the most popular and try to acquire similar content. Fans can also send requests to us via our Facebook page www.facebook.com/neonalleynetwork and twitter.
Brian – I don’t ever think there will be a point where our mission is accomplished, we’ll continuously look for ways to improve the service for our members and expand the anime genre to new audiences. This is really just the beginning for Neon Alley!
Brian – Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about our new service, for more information about Neon Alley please check out www.neonalley.com or “like” us on Facebook: facebook.com/neonalleynetwork.
All right. Personally, I think the expansion of anime into new markets and venues outside of Japan is great, but as I currently live in Japan, I’m unable to subscribe to Neon Alley. If anyone having read this article is using Neon Alley I’d be very appreciative if you could post your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks to all my readers who’ve been able to give Ashita no Anime the presence it needed to catch the attention of VIZ. I am very pleased by the progress my blog has made over the past year and hopefully this sort of thing can happen more often. Also, as this was the first interview I’ve ever conducted with an “industry insider” I’d also love any feedback you could give me about this article should I get another opportunity for something like this in the future.