Interview Date: 11/19/2013
In late October, Viewster announced that they entered a licensing agreement with American anime distributor FUNimation. Through the agreement, the company would stream eighteen anime titles on their service to residents of the United States and the United Kingdom. The announcement was upbeat, and Viewster’s initial lineup contained many popular titles like Hellsing, Trigun, and FLCL. At the same time, though, questions rippled through the anime subculture.
Recently, we were given the opportunity to speak with several people that keep Viewster running and growing. And, through our conversation, we discussed the goals of Viewster as a whole, as well as their plans for the anime market. I’d like to thank the team for taking time from their busy schedules, as well as for the fantastic conversation.
Anime Herald: What led Viewster to enter the fray with anime streaming? What opportunities do you see in this particular market?
Viewster: Basically the core of what we are all about is a passion for movies and series that are hard to find. Whether that’s British comedy series, Swedish crime, American thriller and horror – or Japanese anime. We want to build a hub that truly caters to people who like to watch something different, who love pressing play to go for a ride – and who enjoy doing so for free, while still supporting the editors, producers and writers who create that experience for them.
Additionally, we love the discussions, comparisons, reviews, fights and hour-long discoveries that go into finding the best movies and shows.
Anime is just the kind of art form we want to support – plus we’ve got some big fans in our team. We’re still young and looking forward to engaging deeper with the anime community. By doing so, we are able to truly shape our platform to meet the needs of our viewers.
Anime Herald: How has the response to anime content been since its addition to your service?
Viewster: Overwhelming to say the least. The amount of feedback by far exceeded our expectations, which means that we’re now able to make our service even better and expand our anime catalogue based on the feedback we’ve gotten so far.
We’ve had people thanking us for placing ads in their news feeds, awesomely detailed complaints about features that did not work and just random, good chats with people who were new to our site.
Our way of returning the favor for your immense response will show, as we optimize our site, expand the catalogue and start running promotional activities. (smiles)
Anime Herald: How do you plan to get Viewster’s name out to the anime market? What steps do you plan to take to bring viewers to your service?
Viewster: While we do have advertising plans locked down, word-of-mouth and organic growth is where we put the majority of our effort.
We strongly believe that if we focus on building a solid, free service with relevant and quality content, viewers will recommend what they find and like to their friends.
In terms of getting our name out there, we spend time making sure to specifically contact people who could really be interested in our content. We know people are fed up with irrelevant social media ads, so we’re careful about the choices we make and we see social media as a great tool for both sides to honestly communicate with each other.
Anime has a strong and loyal following and initially we, of course, wanted to reach out and make sure fans were informed as soon as possible about our latest anime acquisitions. Anime viewers know what they want, and in many cases they know their anime better than we do, so by giving a chunk of influence the viewers, we believe they’ll keep sticking around.
With that said, we also invite newcomers to give anime, and other film genres they may not be familiar with, a go. Experimenting doesn’t cost anything: our site is free.
Anime Herald: Aside from streaming, what services do you offer to your prospective market? What value will anime fans find in Viewster that they won’t find elsewhere?
Viewster: Basically, we offer an entire catalogue of free series and movies that are hard to find anywhere else. We’re not trying to go head-to-head with the “big guys” – we’re trying to find content that provides the viewer with a unique experience, and make it as easily accessible as possible by not asking for a registration or subscription fee.
Shortly after titles are published on our website, they are also available on our apps for iPhone, iPad, Android devices and tons of connected TVs.
The overall value for anime fans lies in the easy accessibility, the legality and free availability of all our content, as well as the unique selection of our movies and shows.
Anime Herald: What goes into the title selection process? How do you gauge which shows and films will be a good fit for the niche you’re cultivating with Viewster?
Viewster: You! Far along the way, we analyze what movies and shows are being watched – and try to get more of whatever it is. This approach results in increased viewership (which is awesome for us), and content that our users like (which is awesome for you).
We’re blessed to have a very picky and talented content acquisition team who love weird stuff, and who know the people who sell that weird stuff. We’re avoiding blockbusters and instead head to the crates in the back, which means doing research in all corners of the world.
Anime Herald: Do you plan to expanding your partnerships to include other players in the American industry?
Viewster: We always keep our eyes open for new licensing opportunities and partnerships, and recently closed some great deals for quirky British comedy that we really like. We continue to monitor social media and the web to make sure we make the right deals, so make sure you speak up and get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter, if you think there’s something missing in our catalogue.
Anime Herald: Do you have plans to expand your anime distribution operations to other countries that Viewster serves?
Viewster: Yes, 100% – but there are many pieces to the puzzle of getting these license deals locked down. For starters, we’ve only purchased rights for the US and UK, but hopefully more regions will follow. If you are not based in the US or the UK, we sadly only have the trailers available to you at the moment.
Anime Herald: Looking into the future, do you have plans to expand your offerings to titles that aren’t specifically anime but may hold interest to anime fans, such as live-action manga adaptations or offbeat “special interest” titles?
Viewster: Again, yes – but we want to make sure we get the right stuff, and at a cost that allows us to let you watch it for free. This is where we are looking to you as well, for recommendations and tips on what you’d like to see. Reach out and let us know.
Anime Herald: If there was one message you would like Viewster to convey to the anime community, what would it be?
Viewster: Tell your friends about us – and tell us what you think of our service! We’re truly grateful for the feedback we’ve gotten so far, and we look forward to continue growing our platform with you. We’re @viewster on Twitter, /viewster on Facebook and /viewsterTV on YouTube.