Europe drives new interest in anime, as Netflix, Crunchyroll boost awareness

Europe is driving an emerging popularity boom for anime, the animated content genre majority produced in Japan, in the region.

Anime titles available outside Japan on SVOD services have doubled from 3,000 to 6,000 around the world since 2019, according to new figures from Ampere Analysis.

International streamers, and in particular Netflix, have made a strategic effort to grow the market outside of APAC and are now reaping the reward as Japanese Anime content continues to rank as the second most-popular on subscription streaming services globally, only behind U.S. content.

This popularity ranking is unique to Ampere and based on key metrics such as volume of interest, web traffic and box office income from major services.  

Ampere Analysis content popularity score June 2024

“While the number of core Anime fans is small, casual Anime viewers are common across the world,” said Orina Zhao, senior analyst at Ampere, to StreamTV Insider. “In terms of growth, European markets have seen the fastest rise in those enjoying Anime over the last four years.

“Besides traditional linear licensing, global streamers and Hollywood studios have all tried to seize this opportunity by ramping up their Anime catalogs. This is particularly because Japanese Anime has a long-lasting lifecycle of popularity.”

She also highlighted how cost-effective licensing or producing anime can be in terms of the content’s ability to attract and retain subscribers within a platform.

Long-running TV series and movies from Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli account for the majority of the most-popular anime titles.

For example, Wit Studio’s Attack on Titan was the most popular anime title on SVODs in 2023 despite being first released a decade ago. Studio Ghibli movies Spirited Away (2001), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and Princess Mononoke (1997) are also in the top ten.

Globally, anime fans are typically young, skewing 18-35 year old with a relatively lower income. They are heavy SVOD users, and spend more time on smartphones and smart TVs.

Ampere says they are likely to be young adults or new parents and the gender split is about 50-50 outside of Japan. That differs from demos in Japan where the genre attracts a mostly male audience (the split is 58% male / 42% female).

According to Ampere’s latest survey of 30 countries, Asia Pacific markets such as the Philippines, Indonesia and South Korea still show the highest interest in anime. However, seven out of the top 10 markets with the largest growth of interest in watching anime are in Europe. They include Germany, Finland, Italy, the UK, France, Poland, and Spain which have seen a 3% to 9% increase in anime enjoyment in the past five years.

Ampere anime graph June 2024

The number of anime titles has been increasing too in these seven European markets, from 1,945 titles in 2019 to 2,755 titles in 2023, a 42% increase in the past five years. This has been driven primarily by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and dedicated anime platform Crunchyroll, the latter which launched into Europe when then-parent company WarnerMedia acquired Viz Media in 2019.

Sony has owned the streaming service since 2021 and earlier this year merged it with Funimation (closing the Funimation brand) to offer a combined 1,653 titles to 15.6 million subscribers (who pay from $7.99 a month in the US, with Mega Fan and Ultimate Fan tiers increasing by $2 a month).

“Since April’s merger with Funimation, Crunchyroll has become the single most powerful Anime-focused platform in the West in terms of both its Anime catalog size and subscriber base,” said Zhao.

Between 294 and 481 new titles (titles produced in the past three years) were made available in the seven European markets in 2023, but this is around one-third the rate of new titles released in Taiwan, leaving ample capacity for importing new content into Europe, Ampere said.

“Crunchyroll’s merger and Netflix ramping up its distribution, this will undoubtedly increase the visibility and popularity of Anime globally,” said Zhao. “We find European audiences underserved at present by a good supply of Anime and think there is a substantive opportunity for growth.”

She advised, “European local and regional services should leverage the building appetite for Anime and the wide availability of content yet to be exploited in the region to gain a competitive edge and achieve long-term growth.”

Netflix strategic focus

Japanese content overall has become the second largest content type on Netflix and the streamer is now the leading platform globally for licensing and producing anime. It has ramped up its licensed original titles from 602 in 2019 to nearly 900 in 2023, including an increase of exclusive licensed titles from 45 to 86 and originals from 21 to 76.

It has broadened its anime genres too. While Sci-Fi & Fantasy and Action and Adventure still make up 70% of the titles, Netflix has expanded to include comedy, childrens, horror, romance and drama.

“Crucially, Netflix has signed production line deals with a number of Japanese studios,” said Zhao.

This began in 2018 when Netflix first signed production deals with Production I.G. (including Wit Studio) and Bones. A year later it made co-production deals with three more leading Japanese studios, Anima, Sublimation and David Production. The three have so far co-produced titles with Netflix such as Altered Carbon, Dragon’s Dogma, and Springgan.

Netflix further expanded its partnerships with anime studios by signing co-prod pacts with Naz, Science Saru and Mappa. It also signed a similar deal with Studio Mir in South Korea, which produced The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf for Netflix.

Two years ago, Netflix signed a film co-production deal with Studio Colorido to expand from TV series to movies. Some co-produced films have also premiered in theaters and on Netflix on the same day.

Moreover, Netflix has quadrupled the amount of adult animated content it has produced from outside of Japan from 11 in 2019 to 44 titles in 2023.

Ampere also believes there is further scope for Netflix to produce live action adaptations of popular anime titles, as it did with One Piece, which launched last year.

The exploding interest in anime will be explored at animation conference and festival Annecy in France next week. Crunchyroll’s SVP of Global Commerce Mitchel Berger will discuss anime’s impact on pop culture and Japanese studio Kasagi Labo will announce a financing platform for original anime.

Netflix is in force at Annecy where it premiers Tokyo-set animated superhero feature Ultraman: Rising produced by Netflix, Tsuburaya Productions, and ILM. Rising Impact, the first anime adaptation of Nakaba Suzuki’s manga of the same name, is a Netflix exclusive that premieres on June 22.