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How To Start A Legal Anime Streaming Business In Today’s Climate

Tohru Maid Shrug Anime Girl
Avatar of Theo J Ellis

Starting an anime streaming business today is something a lot of people or fans want to do, but can’t.

It’s no different to how people wanna start:

  • Social media companies.
  • Search engines.
  • Real estate..

And all other kinds of things with a high barrier to entry. That barrier being a BIG financial one, more than anything else.



Starting an anime streaming business is different

YouTube video

With an anime streaming business, you have to:

  • Buy licenses.
  • Spend tons of money.
  • High upfront costs.
  • Design the website.
  • Attract the customers.

And all that good stuff, the same way Crunchyroll, Funimation, and whoever else does.

But actually that’s not the entire truth. The reality is starting an anime streaming business is different because of WHAT you can get away with.

You’re not forced to go through the front door, there’s a backdoor as well.

It’s really the only way to start a legal anime streaming business, despite the ethics and morals involved.

Some will take what I’m about to say as me promoting it, but it’s really pointing out the facts and reality of the situation. And to show how broken the anime business is, fundamentally.



1. Create an anime pirate site

That’s right. The only way to start an anime streaming business (in general) is to start an anime pirate site.

Not politically correct, is it? But it’s the brutal truth. And no amount of preaching the so called greater good can change it.

Not all anime streaming sites (legal) started as pirates, but the absolute biggest we know of dabbled in piracy before going the straight and narrow.


bilibili name logo

Bilibili, the Chinese streaming service had to take this route. They wouldn’t be where they are otherwise.

Founded by Xu Yiin 2009, the name comes from a play on Mikoto Misaka’s nickname in Railgun.

Fans could upload stolen anime content and all that jazz, which is ultimately what grown the site. To the point of Sony getting a stake in the company worth 100’s of millions of dollars.

2 years prior (2018) they went public, which lead to them going legal and putting the days of piracy behind them.

They have over 31 million registered users.


manga rock app

manga, obviously.

The site was so massive during the time it was a pirate, that even pirate bay was small in comparison. And even Hollywood streaming sites were no match for its traffic.

It wasn’t until 2019 that they decided to be “good Samaritans” and go the legal route instead of, as they say, hurt the industry.

“The massively popular manga comic scanlation platform Manga Rock is shutting down. Its Google Play store app has been removed and according to a published timeline the iOS version and site will follow. The site’s operators say that they now realize how much damage piracy does. They are committed to relaunching as an authorized service, MR Comics, in the near future.” – Torrent Freak


crunchyroll pirate site 2006

Crunchyroll started out this way, too. The founders started the site as a deliberate pirate.

This was even before KissAnime came into the picture. It probably inspired KissAnime.

Fans could upload anime content, videos, and that’s how they gained a relatively big library and became a popular site.

In 2005-2007 you can only imagine how necessary the site was, even if it rubbed people like Anime News Network the wrong way.

No legal anime streaming site existed that was worth anyone’s energy.

Crunchyroll started out as a necessary evil, and received over $2M+ in investment in a relatively short amount of time.

That encouraged them to go legal after so much criticism and pressure. And that’s partly why they’re #1 in anime streaming.

It’s why they got a foothold in the business at all, given the high upfront costs. Funimation was legitimately legal only because they started out in the 1980’s and built up overtime.

It’s a history I can’t imagine the CR founders were proud of because they’ve never confronted it out loud in the open.

Related: Crunchyroll Vs Funimation: Which One To Choose, And Should You Use BOTH?


2. Write the cheque

“Everybody wants to be a boss, but nobody wants to write the cheque.” – Unknown

If you’re not putting up your own money, you can forget it. The anime industry is black and white when it comes to starting a streaming service.

You either put up the money, and have the money to spare in large amounts to pay for:

  • Licenses.
  • Content.
  • Branding.
  • Marketing.

Or you start an anime pirate site and take the shortcut to success, like many seem to be doing.

You can also call it the “necessary evil” option.

Even if you can do the money part, the piracy solution is cheaper anyway. And it guarantees traffic within the week, never mind a month.

So many anime fans are on the hunt for anime pirate sites because of the problems the industry has.

The demand is always high, even for new pirate sites that may or may not go legal.


How much the average anime license costs

nozomi tojo money love live

“anime is decidedly more complicated than just being able to pay for it.” – Anime News Network

The barrier to entry for a legal streaming site is magic-mushrooms kind of high.

It’s not a poor man’s business let’s put it that way, meaning you can’t start a legal streaming site when you yourself have no upfront money (unlike other digital businesses).

This only proves the point even more, and is ironically responsible for piracy since so many anime shows aren’t available, legally.

No company will buy a boat load of anime unless it’s more commercial like a DBZ as opposed to obscure, but successful series.

That’s true for NEW shows airing each season as well.

For these reasons, anime piracy may just be around forever. No one’s interested in coming up with a solution just yet.

Don’t hold your breath waiting.

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