I’ve blogged about Viewster, both specifically and when talking about anime streaming in general, multiple times now. I’ve also posted a vlog and a followup on YouTube.
Since then, though, I’ve been keeping an eye on what the more general opinions are regarding the OMAKASE service.
From what I can tell, on the whole it sees to be going down quite well. Especially in the US, as they lack the much higher shipping fees that Canada and the UK incur. The problem, from my point of view, is that the main focus of any praise for the service is the giftbox aspect and nothing else.
True, the HD streaming and the digital extras haven’t been implemented yet but it really seems that people are looking at OMAKASE as just an “Anime Lootcrate”.
Ironic, since Lootcrate themselves have recently announced an anime-specific offering.
I’ve seen OMAKASE mentioned as a really good giftbox service that just happens to be attached to a fairly good anime streaming platform and throws in ad-free as a nice bonus.
If that’s what Viewster are aiming for then fair enough. The problem for some of us, though, is that if your main interest in the anime streaming then you’re a bit of an afterthought, audience-wise.
So, here’s the problem. People who like merchboxes are completely catered for, as long as they’re in the right region for shipping. Fans of streaming video, which may possibly be some of the people following a video streaming company, are left out in the cold.
Outside of the US and can’t justify the higher shipping charges? No premium video for you.
Live in the UK and just want to see the exclusive simulcasts in HD and without ads legally? Sorry, out of luck.
Live in a region not covered by OMAKASE shipping at all? Sorry, premium video still not allowed.
And here’s where it starts to sting. Viewster are a European company with their Head office in Switzerland. Certainly here in the UK they’ve been a nice little addition to the video-on-demand scene and I would have to assume that the same applies in mainland Europe.
Similarly, their recent expansion into Anime simulcasts and catalogue streaming has been a much needed breath of fresh air over here. Again, I can only really speak for how it seems here in the UK but I would guess that the same applies elsewhere in Europe.
In the UK, at least, they were beginning to cover the holes not covered Crunchyroll’s licensing and were offering a much stronger service than alternatives like Animax and even Daisuki. Licensing by American companies was having a bit of an adverse effect over here. Funimation picking up the English language rights almost always froze Crunchyroll out of the running for a UK stream, as they are competitors in America. Viz picking up a show in America may put it on Crunchyroll over there but it also increased the chances of their European branch picking up the license as well. And that would mean Animax over here, as they’re the local competitor.
Viewster’s main strength over here was that they had a real passion for anime which they were showing to the local fanbases that were often overlooked by more America-focused companies. They just needed to improve a few things, like their queue, and have an ad-free subscription which enabled HD video. Which we were told was “coming soon”.
And in June 2015, having had a bit of an American presence for a while, Viewster opened its American subsidiary, Viewster Inc. It is at this point that their focus seemed to change a fair bit. Helped, in part, by the American CEO also being involved in their global strategies, like premium streaming.
Yes, the one thing that Viewster most needed as a European entity to stand equal with the American-focused companies was now being spearheaded by their own American subsidiary that was also tasked with expanding its American market.
Shortly after this, OMAKASE was announced.
Since then, their entire marketing push has been towards OMAKASE. Talking up their merchandising box with little mentioned about the video side of the service. Worse still, the HD video side of things still hasn’t appeared despite being much requested (and hinted at)since before OMAKASE was even an official “thing”.
In various interviews regarding OMAKASE, it seems that they are wanting to go for the all-in-one offering to try and distinguish themselves as not being “just another anime streaming service”.
The problem is, it’s only really in America where they need to do that. Here in the UK, and likely elsewhere in Europe, there’s nothing wrong with being “just another anime streaming service”, especially when catering for titles that otherwise wouldn’t be legally shown outside of Japan or America.
This is where, I think, attitudes in the UK start to sour a bit. Viewster’s biggest advantage was that it actually seemed to give a damn about our segment of the market, unlike a lot of the America-focused (or America-exclusive) services. They were covering some of the licensing gaps that the American companies were leaving in the UK landscape.
Now they just feel like another America-centric service concentrating on the American market with anywhere else just thrown in as an afterthought.
With no HD-only subscription option, premium video is either tied to a costly giftbox or frozen out entirely, depending on where you live. And if Viewster are the only people legally streaming a show in your region, you’re basically screwed.
Whilst they focus on the market that is already extremely well catered for when it comes to anime streaming.
Focus on Video
My hopes for the (near) future are that they ease up on the giftbox push and focus on the streaming side of their offerings.
- Offer an ad-free premium video option that is standalone. People have been asking for this for a while.
- HD video, The shows are made in HD, so that should be the next “big feature” in development.
- The website and apps need a bit more work to have proper sorting and filtering.
- Apps on the Sony consoles would be nice, too.