Interview Date: 1380499200
Earlier today, Neon Alley celebrated its first anniversary. From the channel’s early days, it was clear that they marched to the beat of a different drummer. The channel’s focus on a linear feed of dubbed shows, and its roll-out across the gaming world before the PC world were seen as shocking moves, in a world where VOD reigns supreme, simulcasts are the new normal, and everybody jumps straight head-first into the red oceans of the PC market. Still, Neon Alley’s roll-out was an interesting one, and a successful one as it’s created thousands of devoted followers.
On September 30, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with three key members of Viz’s Neon Alley team:
- Brian Ige, Vice President of Animation & Neon Alley Creator
- Charlene Ingram, Senior manager, Animation Marketing
- Kevin Kleinrock, Neon Alley Program Director
What began as a straight-forward interview quickly grew into something truly special, we the three began to not only talk, but gush about their roles with the channel. There was a sense of pride, a deep affection for what they did to make Neon Alley run, and what they could to do build it into the best anime network around, both online and on viewers’ television sets. The three loved what they built up over the past year, and it showed. As topics bubbled from business to programming, to even Saturday morning cartoons and game shows, the enthusiasm never waned. They were proud of Neon Alley, and they wanted the world to know it.
I want to thank everybody that helped to make this interview happen: Brian, Charlene, Kevin, and Jane. You were all fantastic, and I thank you for taking the time from your busy schedules to meet.
Editor’s Note: Edited for clarity.
Anime Herald: First of all, I’d like to thank you for sitting down with me on this. I appreciate it. But my first question would be “What inspired you to create Neon Alley?”
Brian Ige: For Neon Alley, it was a couple of years in the making. It was actually, we took a look at the anime market over the last couple of years, and we tried to look for the underserved part of the market, as well as building a business that we felt could support some of our different businesses, like our TV business or our consumer products business. So after looking at and evaluating the market over the last couple of years, we noticed that the dub market seemed to be declining in terms of visibility to consumers. We saw a decline in content on broadcast television, and so we felt that there was an opportunity there to create something special. Something for the fans, something different! A new concept that we felt would resonate with them well.
Anime Herald: Do you feel that the dub-centric focus that you took, I know that you mentioned its declining popularity. Do you feel that’s kind of given you an edge in the streaming market, or an advantage overall?
Brian Ige: I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear that.
Anime Herald: I’m sorry! (laughs)
Kevin Kleinrock:Do you think that going with the dub focus has given us an advantage overall in terms of the streaming market?
Brian Ige: Yeah, I do think so, but only because you see a lot of the sites now, like a Hulu or Crunchyroll, or even like a VizAnime.com, where most of the support is in simulcasts and subtitled content. But I also know that there is a big market for dubbed anime content, and those kind of are the opportunity that we saw in front of us, was to try to find a vehicle to help deliver the dubbed anime content to our audience, but at the same time support, like I mentioned, our product and licensing business.
Charlene Ingram: Yeah, and it really is still, the English dubs are still the easiest to access for people new into the anime space, so if you’re just getting into anime as a fan, you’re very likely to get into dub content first. And it still, based on our surveys and based on consumer feedback, dub’s still the preferred format. There’s still a lot of love for subtitled, but people in North America really do enjoy their anime dubs. And Neon Alley is just a better way, it’s a different way to access that, to just be exposed to it.
Anime Herald: Thank you. And what goes into your selection process for programming? How do you guys choose which shows go into rotation, and which ones you hold off on for scheduling?Brian Ige: Well in terms of our selection process for the shows, we try to deliver a good mix of content. We try to find new content that hasn’t been exposed yet into the market. We also try to look at strong catalog content. Classics, you know, content that we feel any anime fan should see, and also fan input content to content. So we also take requests from our audience. I mean, we built the channel for the fans, so we want to make sure that we’re giving them what they want, and so we pick really from those three main approaches.
Charlene Ingram: It’s really good shows for Neon Alley are a mix of brand new content, a mix of really new content, and a mix of comfort food. So, if you turn on Neon Alley at any time, you’re going to get something really high quality to watch, that if you can tune in at a specific time, and see a premiere of something, or you can just turn it on and see one of your old favorites. SO there’s always something interesting to watch, no matter what time of day you tune in.
Anime Herald: Expanding on that, I know you said you listen to fan input. Is there a case where fan input pushed a “maybe” or, like a “not quite” into a “sure thing, have to have it on the network”?
Charlene Ingram: Well, we have a pretty good finger on the pulse of what is active currently in fandom. What people are talking about, what would be a good fit. Now, of course, Viz titles are a lot easier to add to the network, but we try to be studio agnostic. So, if it’s a really good title, we’re going to try to pursue it, and if it’s a fit for the service, we will pursue it. But it still has got to mesh with the ecosystem that’s already there. So the shows have to look like they belong together, so we don’t kind of have too too much of any one type of sub-genre. Obviously, action is the main one, but not too much of the same type. We try to spice it up a little bit. And now, with the fall season, we’re adding in some of the classics. It’s kind of like you’re listening to top 40, you really like top 40, so we’re going to slip some classics in that we know that you’ll like, you’re going to enjoy it, and it’s just going to be, as the service evolves, it’s going to be more and more well-rounded with every season.
Anime Herald: Alright. Total bucket list time! What is your dream series for Neon Alley? What title would you love to see on the channel if, say, money, effort, anything didn’t matter? What would be that show that you’d love to see on there?
Charlene Ingram: I think all three of us are going to have a different answer! (laughs)
Brian Ige: (laughs) Well, I guess I can start. For me, it’s not the work with my favorites are, in that scene, we’d want to what’s best for our company. So each time, some of the bigger hits that are coming out on the market now, you know, series like Attack on Titan, which we’ve seen do very well in the simulcast process. There’s a title called Blood Lad, our records of it show its run doing very well. I mean, those two series have not been confirmed for Neon Alley at this point, but we, like I mentioned before, kind of keep our eye on what’s happening in the marketplace and, what fans are connecting with. That’s thanks to the simulcast process. Those are really it, though… that they’re the right stuff I’d love to see come on the service.
Charlene Ingram: What about you, Kevin? What would you like to see?
Kevin Kleinrock:Well, I really keep a close track. Alison, who I work with, and I, we track everything that’s requested via Twitter, via Facebook, via every other means of getting to us. I think, as Brian mentioned, Attack on Titan and Fairy Tail seems to be one of the other most requested titles, so I just want to keep bringing the fans what they want. So probably those two are the top of my list right now.
Charlene Ingram: As for me, and I of course agree with everyone else, definitely the big big hits. But I would also, because as fans get into Neon Alley and become anime fans, they become hardcore, they need to be able to expand. You know, they love Naruto, they love Naruto Shippuden, they love Bleach, they love all of the usual action shonen shows. They love Magi, they love all those, but I would like to continue to round out Neon Alley. I would love to see a NoitaminA show or two, ones that would fit in with the service. A little bit of sorbet in-between those courses.
I would want to see, really, any one of those shows. I was really excited when Utena was added to the lineup because I think that’s a show that every anime fan should see. And it makes a really nice counterpoint to Madoka Magika and to Ranma! Having Ranma come on the service is a dream come true. I never thought, fifteen years ago, that Ranma would be on any type of TV, let alone on my TV, let alone in HD. So, having Ranma come to the service with Utena and all the new shows, it’s really coming into its own.
It’s becoming, I have to say that common thread. Neon Alley is another part of your anime diet.It doesn’t take the place of any of your other services. It doesn’t take the place of DVD & Blu-Ray. It’s another piece. It’s a lot like surfing or browsing through television channels on the weekend, or in the afternoon, or whenever you get home and just want to relax. And sometimes you just see that comedy you really like. Like, you will get TBS and you’ll say “Oh, I’ve seen this show a million times. I’ve seen Friends.” And you just leave it on there because it’s comfort food. And you know it’s always going to be something great. Neon Alley is a, you want to sit back, watch some anime, but you don’t want to think, go through your whole DVD or Blu-Ray collection or go through all the plethora of streaming choices. You just turn it on, you know it’s going to be good, and you’re going to get exposed to what could be your new favorite show. Or a show that you’ve loved all along that you want to reconnect with. It’s really meant for that casual viewer or the hardcore, and it’s just another piece of your anime loving diet. You have to have a balanced meal. (laughs)
Brian Ige: Another thing that provides watching the shows on the channel is that in-between the shows, we provide a lot of product trailers, we push conventions, consumer products, we also start bringing a lot of the different categories of news of animation to consumers to let them know what’s happening in the world in terms of product releases, conventions, we try to get behind the scenes content. Every bit of that, you wouldn’t normally get on a traditional television channel that just supports the category. But it is another important part of the channel that it’s not just about the content. All of the different facets of the anime lifestyle.
Charlene Ingram: Even the commercials, you’re never going to see something that’s not relevant to your interests as an anime fan. Because we working at Neon Alley, we love the stuff. So every single spot, every little bit of trivia, every single interstitial is going to be related to the lifestyle. There’s not any pressure to run go car insurance ads, get money. It’s all in the ecosystem. And we really love supporting conventions and local events. Because you never know! Somebody could be watching Neon Alley anywhere in the country, and you don’t know if they want to travel to an anime con, or if there’s a con local to them, or there’s something gaming going on, or there’s a new video game that might not necessarily get as much play in mainstream outlets, but you want to show that off. The people who are in this, you know, anime is in many ways, a niche within a niche. But it’s a strong one, it’s a very passionate one, and there’s more enough content to serve the channel, and ensure that Neon Alley is 100 percent true to its goal every single time. And we defend that (laughs) very much! And you can attest to that, Kevin, all that I’ve said!
Kevin Kleinrock:Yeah, I know! That’s the thing, you know. That really separates to me in the linear stream, it reminds me, it was like growing up on Saturday mornings! You know, getting up, and I wasn’t sure exactly what should were going to be on when I turned it on. But on Saturday Morning, I would be entertained for four hours with shows that I like. And the difference between now and having our own channel and decide the programming is that every bit is relevant, like Charlene said. And we are constantly coming up with new ideas for interstitials, and different types of coverage. The convention coverage that we had over the last year, we set up from San Diego Comic Con and Anime Expo, and Japan Expo, and now we’re heading to New York Comic Con. It’s really great fun. We’ve been able to do some great interviews with some J-Pop artists and other people, and it’s really, as Brian mentioned, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle channel. But even though now, we have the on-demand, the Catch Up service, where people can catch an episode they might have missed during the past week, you’re still going to find people drawn to that live stream. Because you’re not going to get that lifestyle, you’re not going to get the overall channel experience when you’re just using the catch up shows.
Anime Herald: (pause) Sorry. Got a little choked up there. You just hit me right in the heart, here! (laughs)
Charlene Ingram: Look at that! We’re right in the heart! (laughs)
Anime Herald: You had me at “the Saturday Morning feeling”! (laughs)
Kevin Kleinrock:Yeah! It’s so true! It’s so cool to be able to… because again, you know, when you talk about what exists out there, and what makes Neon Alley different from that. It’s having all of these vast on-demand libraries of content are great, if that’s what you’re looking for! But when I get home from work, or I get up on the weekend or whatever, I don’t want to have to go make those choices. And one of the other things that I really about Neon Alley is that, not only do we have the classic series that everybody likes, The Narutos, and the Bleaches, and the One Pieces. But we’ve got stuff that I probably would have never come across myself because I’m not a super super hardcore anime fan to where I’m watching subs first. You know, Charlene is that way, and Brian might be that way, but I’m a dub first guy! And I would have never been exposed to a series like K, or even Tiger & Bunny if there wasn’t that dub, and it hadn’t been programmed onto a service like Neon Alley that I subscribed to just because I’m a fan of dubbed anime! So I think the fact that we’re bringing exposure to these series that aren’t on television, but deserve to be but aren’t because of the economy of television these days, or because of the limited space range on television. It’s really a great opportunity to get exposed to that new content and new series while I’m also watching my Naruto and my Bleach and my Death Note.
Charlene Ingram: And that’s a really good point that Kevin brings up. That the nature of Neon Alley is we are 100% in control, every single second of every single day. So we never have to edit for time or for content, so everything can be uncut as it’s delivered from Japan. So we don’t have to cut out the openings and endings to fit it into a twenty and a half minute TV spot with all the commercial bumps. We can do the commercial at the commercial breaks for Japan.
Kevin Kleinrock: There’s, like one break. We actually only do one break in the middle of the show.
Charlene Ingram: And nothing is ever cut out. So you’re never under that pressure to shoehorn it in a very specific amount of time. And even if, you know when an anime gets onto something like Toonami, which is really great, millions of people watch Toonami, but there’s no way Toonami or any television network can deliver something completely unedited because the time slots in the United States versus the time slots in Japan are just different.
Brian Ige: I was about to say we have no Standards, but that would totally come out wrong! (laughs)
Charlene Ingram: Nothing really shocks us!
Brian Ige: The great part of is that it’s 24/7 uncut, and it’s uncensored and it truly is. Yes, it’s in English, but it’s as pure to the original as you can get for all of these titles. And because we are in control, it’s great because we can, we do program if some shows have four minute downtimes between the next show, it’s four minutes. If some has three, it’s three. We don’t have to conform to a standard television network’s roadmap of how the programs have to work, so it’s great.
Charlene Ingram: And it’s very refreshing to not have to deal with Standards & Practices, because there’s a cultural difference, and there’s different things that certain networks won’t show during the day. And we do try to, some of the more graphic stuff we do try to keep until a little bit later, just because it’s more appealing to later. I mean, you wouldn’t want necessarily want to watch certain things at seven in the morning. But we can control the flow of what best show-to-show, not what’s best for sponsor-to-sponsor or necessarily date part to date part. It’s all, the whole schedule has a flow. And we work on the schedule ourselves. Brian does a lot of the schedule himself to make it the perfectly programmed, each block flows into another block. And it’s not just the premiere days that are so tightly programmed. It’s every single bit across every single day. If you ever have a chance to look at the whole schedule and plot it out, it really makes a lot of sense to someone who really likes anime, or wants to be exposed to it.
Anime Herald: Absolutely! Speaking of which, I know you mentioned the Catch Up feature. What led you to introduce that?
Brian Ige: The one thing you should know is that the Catch Up feature was planned to be part of the service all along. What we wanted to do first was, because the linear content was such a new idea, we wanted to roll that out first to see whether or not anime fans would be interested in that type of kind of fresh concept. But over the course of the last year, we’ve seen a lot of great feedback regarding the linear channel and the overall the interstitial content. So we felt that this was the right time to go ahead and introduce the Catch Up feature. So it was the one thing that you should know that it was actually part of the initial plan for Neon Alley, but in that first phase we wanted to see whether that linear concept would still capture an audience.
Anime Herald: So, kind of seeing whether the market would take the main course before adding onto it.
Charlene Ingram: Well, whenever you have something like the Catch Up, and each time you add more parts to the service, the things that get added, they get added on exponentially. It’s not just “Oh, here’s an extra episode.” It’s an entire moving schedule that gets updated daily. So it’s not as simple as “Oh, we’ll just add the episodes, I’ll catch them!” No, it’s always rolling, and it gives Kevin very interesting days!
Kevin Kleinrock: Yeah, it’s great and I’m really glad that we’ve launched it now. Because it does, now it takes the Neon Alley Experience like we discussed a few minutes ago, it was to me the highlight of it is “sit back and be entertained.” But now, you’ve got a whole different option, which is to watch Neon Alley on your schedule. So if you’re not home on Saturday night when the new Shippuden episode airs, you don’t have to sit around waiting for it to come on again. You can simply go the next morning, and watch it at your leisure. And then, there’s always a number of episodes so, if you’re on vacation for a week or whatever, you can still get caught up. We’re really happy that it’s launched now, and we’re looking forward to it being on the consoles very soon!
Charlene Ingram: Very very soon! (laughs)
Brian Ige: I think the goal of the Catch Up is, we still want to drive people to watch the linear service. There are things that, by premiering shows first there, it gives fans an opportunity for water cooler talk, where everybody’s talking about what happened on last night’s show. So, in adding the Catch Up feature it allows people to actually get caught up to premieres, you have a chance to take part in the experience and all talk about it together all over social media, forums, fan boards… our main goal is to get consumers buzzing about a title, and get global mentions for it. So I think that’s really the main purpose of the Catch Up feature. We can understand how people watch television now. We already know there’s a lot of on demand, and so decided to introduce this feature, knowing this is a part of how people watch television now. There are still television channels that are still successful, people still watch linear TV, but there is a certain added comfort of “well, if I miss it, I still have an opportunity to catch it during a certain channel’s on-demand, or other services like Hulu.” So we strive to make sure you’ve just got to feature it as part of it later, really knowing that’s what consumers want, and chose as a current offering for this type of service.
Anime Herald: I know you just mentioned that adding one feature multiplies a goal exponentially. I can definitely relate! During the day hours, I’m a software engineer, and honestly, what you described is exactly how it feels when it comes to feature adds, because you need to consider what you’re putting in, but what’s already there, and worry about building without disrupting what’s in place.
Kevin Kleinrock: And, coming back to what Brian said, I’m still a huge proponent of that live stream, and I’m okay if people will, and I know people will begin to take to it. Because, as Brian just mentioned, I love on Friday nights and Saturday nights, when our new shows air, just watching along on Twitter, as people react to “Oh my god, K was awesome this week!” or “Can you believe what happened on Accel World?” And you’re not going to get that if everyone’s just watching in Catch Up. So, following along on Facebook and Twitter, and seeing people as they live-tweet these premieres on Friday and Saturday really is, I think not quite fun for me, but or the people that are doing it, and the people who are following along. And so we love that fact that the live stream encourages people to do that.
Charlene Ingram: Yeah, and anime fans really want to watch things first. And the other beautiful thing about having the live stream and having the linear component that we can control, we have the ability to program fairly last minute. So as soon as episodes get done from the studio, when we know when that episode’s coming in, we can turn it around in mere days. We don’t have to wait for huge batches of them. We can get them up as soon it’s with us. A really good example is when we did the big K event at Anime Expo, with all of the K voice actors. We were premiering K, I think it was one week after that, it was either one or two weeks after that, and the voice actors had not yet recorded the middle or the end. So when they were experiencing the K premiere, it was really fresh from when they got it done. So they actually got to experience it with the fans. Normally, when there’s a dub premiere, episodes are delivered in much larger batches, and they’re a little bit closer to when the DVD or Blu-Ray gets released. So everybody knows the full gist of everything going on. But this was a very unique opportunity because of Neon Alley being able to roll it out, those actors got to experience it with the fans in the moment. So having the linear stream is a true “in the now” experience.
Kevin Kleinrock: And also, with Shippuden. We’re the only place where you can see brand new, world premiere, English dubbed episodes of Shippuden. And people are writing us, asking all the time: “Why are you only doing one episode a week? Why can’t we get two episodes or three episodes?” It’s like, we’re literally delivering them on Neon Alley hot and fresh out of the studio. And so, there is no way to deliver three or four a week because they’re not even dubbed yet! So it’s really great to be able to bring people stuff literally days after it comes out of the studio sometimes.
Anime Herald: Absolutely! If I remember correctly, when the platform kicked off, it was an app on the PS3, correct?
Kevin Kleinrock: Yep!
Anime Herald: Alright. Just wanted to make sure I got my notes right on that, first. (laughs) What led you to adopt this service first? Was there something about that demographic that just seemed to click with your early goals?
Brian Ige: I think, for PlayStation, we saw a really really strong crossover in audience on the PlayStation, so we felt that PlayStation was a great partner for us to launch the service with. We have downloadable content available on the PlayStation, so we felt that there was a strong crossover with the audiences there, as well as the fact that PlayStation supports a lot of gaming from Japan. So we know that there was a higher concentration of anime fans through the PlayStation console. That’s not to say they’re our de facto partner in our delivery. But PlayStation in the beginning phase is a great partner for us, and we did show that they had a strong crossover with them, which is why we had decided to launch with them as our official partner. They were really supportive, they supported the launch, they put some great marketing behind it to boost the visibility and awareness of Neon Alley. The brand itself doesn’t really scream “anime”, so we had to find a partner that would help us in terms of launching the brand into the marketplace. Our start was a real success with them.
Charlene Ingram: Yeah, and especially if you even looked at the PlayStation store, and you look at what’s popular on PlayStation network, you see a lot of anime, you see a lot of J-Games, a lot of JRPGs, a lot of PSP content. So you still get a lot of our viewership is from Sony platforms. Of course, we have a whole lot from Xbox and a whole lot from the web as well, but even though it was before my time at Viz, going on the PS3 seemed really the obvious choice as a place to start to capture that core audience.
Anime Herald: And I know you mentioned the web component. How has the response been to that, overall?
Kevin Kleinrock: It’s been great! One of the biggest questions when we were just on PS3 and Xbox, was “when are you coming to my platform? When are you coming to my device?” You know, “can you come here and there and wherever,” so making the next move be going to the web was the best choice for us because it opened us to the broadest fan base. So now, pretty much anyone in the US or Canada, as long you’ve got an internet connection, you can get Neon Alley. The quality’s great, we’re really happy with that, and we’ve been getting great feedback there. The same with the Catch Up, now that the Catch Up is launched on the web. It’s really been spectacular, and we’ve been getting a really good response from people.
Anime Herald: Out of curiosity, do you have any plans to branch out to devices, like Roku boxes or set top boxes like Boxee, or the like?
Brian Ige: You know, you’ve got your Roku, set-top boxes, Wii, and other devices out there in the marketplace that we’re not available on at this time. So what we’ve been doing is obviously working on the Catch Up feature, we’re planning roll-out on gaming consoles very soon. Then after that, we’re going to survey our audience again, and we’re going to see how we can enhance the service. Look for ways to get the app and channel in front of more people. We don’t know at this point exactly what our next move is going to be. A lot of that is going to be dependent upon the research we do in our survey, and what the fans tell us. But we are always going to be looking ways to enhance the service, and to enhance the distribution of the channel. But right now, we feel that we’re in a good place in terms of availability, but we’re always looking at ways to increase that. At this time, we don’t really have a strategy as to what device or where we’re going next, but you can be sure that we are looking at that, and the choices where we go next. We’ll go over this after we launch the Catch Up on the platform and compile some of the research that we’ve been doing.
Anime Herald: Over the past year, Neon Alley has grown and changed very greatly. Looking back, is there something that you wish you had done or known on day one, but didn’t have the resources to, or didn’t quite get a chance to handle?
Brian Ige: I think, knowing what we know now, looking back, would be the Catch Up feature available day one. I think like I mentioned before, we wanted to see more if our audience would really grab onto that linear feature, looking back I’d think maybe including the Catch Up during day one would have helped greatly. But we’re in the process of rolling out now, so we should feel that once we’re able on the platforms, that we would have a complete product out there for the fans. Other than that, I think that for me is the biggest thing.
Anime Herald: On a lighter note, what are you favorite Neon Alley shows right now? What are your favorites currently running?
Kevin Kleinrock: Mine’s Tiger & Bunny! I love that show! I think it’s so different. I love the fact that it’s kind of, it’s a very modern take. It’s a reality show and it’s about superheroes and it’s just so different from a lot of it, and the sense of humor to it, I really enjoy. So, while I like all of the classics, my favorite current title or new titles that we’ve launched over the past year is definitely Tiger & Bunny.
Brian Ige: For myself, to be completely honest, I really enjoy all of the shows on the channel. And the reason is because we deal with it. We’re bringing the shows to the channel that we feel is something that an audience should watch. We obviously favor, like Shippuden, Bleach, One Piece. Those are all great, great shows. Other shows have a lot of heart and are worth watching, and as well, and so again, it’s hard for me to really choose, because the shows that we bring to the channel are really shows we feel people should see, and I don’t really, it’s hard to really mention how, but that’s the best answer I can give for that. But, seeing that all the shows that we bring to the channels are shows that we all can sign off on, and are shows that we think that people should see.
Charlene Ingram: I’m very similar to Brian in that I want to hug everything, but I really loved Tiger & Bunny, but I have a, I guess right now, if I had to pick one right now, current favorite, I’d have to say Accel World. Accel World is everything I wanted Sword Art Online to be. (laughs) It’s just 100% in that gaming world. I really like Kuroyukihime as a character, I really like how they all interact. But every time, even on weekends, so as I’m cleaning my apartment and doing my stuff, sewing my costumes and doing all of that, I keep Neon Alley on in the background. But I can’t get anything done when Tiger & Bunny’s on, because I’ll turn around and just watch it! I won’t have it on in the background. I’ll just stop everything and just fixate on Tiger & Bunny! But they’re all really good shows! It’s a very watchable channel. There’s no dregs in Neon Alley. There’s no, like, I remember when I was a kid, and the worst part of being home from school sick would be that there was nothing good to watch during the day after the game shows.
Kevin Kleinrock: Talk shows and judge shows!
Charlene Ingram: Yeah! It all soap operas and judge shows, and I really didn’t like that! (laughs) There’s none of that in Neon Alley. There’s no bad parts.
Kevin Kleinrock: There’s no filler! All killer no filler!
Charlene Ingram: I think we have a new slogan! (laughs) But yeah, you’ll see, as Neon Alley evolves and it grows and it comes into its own and it kind of takes on, it brings its own culture to the anime space, but it also absorbs the culture that the anime space brings to it. So you’ll see the progression of Neon Alley as it’s growing and evolving, like, little tweaks happen. Over the last year, it’s been, it looks completely natural in that. It’s been a little bit of new stuff, a little bit more of the music videos have been added, a little more of the happy hardcore and the sugar pop and the J-Pop videos that people really like. There’s all that little stuff in our services. So if it’s cool and hot now, we want to add it to Neon Alley, but we don’t want to keep it on so long that it becomes “not cool” or passé. So it’s very important to us to keep our fingers on the pulse, always being absorbed in that fan community.
And it’s that fine line that we’ve got to walk, between being a fan and being fan-ISH. Understand what is a vocal minority, understand what you want to bring has to work best for everyone. Obviously, every show isn’t a fit for Neon Alley. There’s a certain type of show, a certain type of hit, and things on the bubble that we want to bring people into the anime space to stay into it. Not too casually, there’s a lot of people that watch anime that are just Naruto watchers, or they’re just Bleach watchers, that’s their show. You can remember way back in the day there were people that just watched Cowboy Bebop, they didn’t watch anything else. This is for, you have those people who Shippuden and Bleach, all the Shonen Jump hits. You want to keep them into the anime culture. You want to show them “Hey, you like this? You’re going to like these things as well!” Anime isn’t a genre, it’s a medium, so come for all the big super-hits, stay for an ensemble anime diet. You know, not so much vegetables, you don’t want to eat! (laughs)
Anime Herald: And one more question: Is there anything that you’d like to say to our readers?
Brian Ige: Well, I’d like to say thanks to those who have tried out Neon Alley. Those are staying, we’d just like to that our work continues to that work continues to listen and bring them the things that they want to see. For those that haven’t tried it yet, we encourage them to try it out. We have a seven-day trial going on, so there’s no risk in trying out the service. Let us know what you think, that way your voice is heard. Our goal is to create the best possible experience for consumers, so we encourage feedback, negative or positive.
Charlene Ingram: Yeah, and as for me, I mean, we’re going to be having at the end of this week, we’ve got some more, we have a little bit more news and stuff going out for Neon Alley, as we’re gearing up for our premiere week. Our premieres start on October 18, and we’re really centering all of our efforts on this really strong fall season wrench. I really feel that this fall season is the strongest premiere season that we’ve had yet, and we’re really going out guns blazing. But I would encourage people who have tried and said they tried it a year ago, or even six months ago, come back, try it again for a week, and just be absorbed by it. I think you’re really going to like the changes. You’re going to like what it’s become. Or if you’ve never tried it, come and try it out, and understand that it’s not like anything else. It’s not a Netflix, not a Crunchyroll, it’s not a FUNimation.com, it’s not Hulu. It is its own thing. And that’s what makes Neon Alley special is the anime space doesn’t need another clone of a VOD service. It needs something different. There’s many places one can go for subtitled anime. You can totally eat your fill. There is more anime to watch than there are hours in a lifetime. Neon Alley is something different, and I think everyone should just try it out. It’s a really great season, some of the shows that we have are Gurren Lagann, Utena, Magi, Madoka Magica, Ranma… these are all shows that you really need to watch to consider yourself a really core anime fan. And the great thing about things like Ranma is, you know, Ranma is brand new to a lot of people, and it really really stands up. I found myself a few months ago just rewatching Ranma again, just to get re-familiar with it, and I find myself just as hooked as I was way back in the day, and getting really excited for it. And good comedy like that is absolutely ageless. It never goes out of style. It’s just classic slapstick, get into it at any time, but I know I’m ranting but yeah! Stay tuned for the end of this week for some very special Neon Alley special news.
Kevin Kleinrock: Yeah! Lots of news this week!
Charlene Ingram: (laughs) What about you, Kevin?
Kevin Kleinrock: I really can’t sum it up better than Brian and Charlene did! We’re really excited going into the new season. Our members have been with us since day one, we love them, and they’re awesome. And I really think it goes back to what Charlene said. There’s nothing else out there like this. You can turn on Neon Alley and just not move again, because you’re just going to keep getting awesome anime delivered right to your eyeballs, and you don’t have to make any choices! And that’s what it’s all about. And like Brian talked about, only show shows that all of us would watch goes on Neon Alley. It really is all killer, no filler. It’s all the good stuff. And so we really hope that your readers that haven’t tried it will check it out, especially now that the Catch Up service is available and they can catch everything that they may miss. But don’t belittle the live experience, and tweeting on Friday and Saturday nights.
Charlene Ingram: Because you’re tweeting there with them, too!
Kevin Kleinrock: Yeah! Voice actors get involved, and we get a lot of voice actors that tweet and comment, all the shows are premiering on Friday and Saturday. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great community. We love our Neon Alley members and the community that we’ve built.
Charlene Ingram: Yeah, and it’s very important to support new things in the anime space, because only with support of diversity will you, as anime consumers, get more diversity. Same thing as in Japan, there was a huge moe boom. And moe shows are doing very well. You could see for the next three years was moe. And it didn’t necessarily jive 100% of the time with western audiences until there was a big action hit. Media companies will always go back to the well of things that sell! So if you like these programs, you like something different, and you want more difference in the space, and that’s ultimately good for the market – more different things, more competition to keep things really on their toes. Because if you step into a rut, and you just do one thing over and over, you’re going to get sick of that same thing over and over. So if you really like the diversity, and you want things to expand, try it out! It may or may not be for you. The linear live experience might not be for you, or maybe you’re always working, or you’re out when the new shows come on. You’ve got the Catch Up. You’ve got at least a week to catch up on things. Kind of like HBO Go, you’ve got a little time to catch up on it. But just try it out! I think there’s a reason why we have so many fans. They sign up, and they stay subscribers for a long time. We have a really good retention rate.