One week from today Viz’s streaming channel service, Neon Alley will be making a full transition away from it’s livestream format and will instead be a more traditional streaming service through partnering with Hulu. So now’s a good time to look back and see exactly how far its come from its earlier days.
Admittedly even though I’ve been a subscriber of the service since day one, it intially seemed like an idea that would fall on its face pretty quickly. A linear streaming format with no on-demand offerings, commercials, Ps3 exclusivity and dub only content looked like a recipe for disaster and many were awaiting its demise. I had frankly only really subscribed to it because of Viz’s promise to use it to make good on actually releasing stuff as that was still an uncertainty for many concerning their titles at a time.
But then the service launched and a strange thing happened: It worked.
While the format seemed pretty unappealing at first there was a certain charm to the channel that kind of seemed to click. Being able to watch a 24/7 anime network still had a certain ring to it for the audience Viz was after and the commercials were actually pretty okay to deal with as they were pretty fandom centric and were usually for upcoming releases and the like. It also started up with a pretty strong initially lineup with shows like Tiger & Bunny and Blue Exorcist making their dub debuts on the service and the shows were solid enough to win over some of the skeptics.
Of course a lot of skepticism still remained as the service was still pretty flawed, but to its credit the service continued to evolve and better itself. It eventually expanded onto other platforms including the Xbox 360 and PC and the creation of the Catch Up feature won over a bit more of the people who were still skeptical by making it easier to get around the linear format and keep up with the newer titles on their own convience. The service continued to survive past it’s 1st year, defying people’s expectations and as more and more content continued to be added it seemed to be thriving pretty well.
Then a little over a month ago the transition was announced and it was met with mixed reactions. Some thought it meant that the linear format was doomed from the get go and that had been a flop from the very beginning while others lament the loss of the livestream since it did provide viewers with a way to watch shows they might have otherwise ignored. Personally I kind of figured something like this would happen from the get go regardless of how much of a flop the service may or may not have been. Having two seperate streaming offerings (the other being the VizAnime site which generally hasn’t been paid much attention to as it’s titles are available elsewhere) seemed like something that wasn’t going to last forever and I figured they’d probably get merged together at some point though the transition being free was certainly a welcome surprise. I don’t think the service as it currently is was actually a flop since it kind of lasted a bit too long for that to make sense but as I don’t work for Viz and have access to the numbers or anything I can only guess on that.
So is the transition a good thing or a bad thing? I’d say it’s mostly a pretty good deal. Losing the livestream is a bit of a downer but we’re getting access to a lot more stuff on demand and hopefully they can afford a lot to have a lot more newer content as well since they aren’t paying to keep the app running. Canada’s (unsurprisingly) kind of getting the short end of the stick on this one but hopefully Viz won’t take long to make good on their promise to find a solution for them.
Neon Alley has come a long way in the short time it’s been here with us and the evolution of the service seems pretty logical as the next step. How much will stay the same is unknown but hopefully the service won’t lose too much of its charm through the transition and new users will be able to see some of what made the service work.
One week to go till it all goes down. Time to see if Neon Alley can make the magic happen a second time.