From the time they were introduced to the Indian markets, the journey of Japanese shows and the channel Animax had always been a roller coaster ride. In the 90s, Anime was a brand new concept among Indian kids and teenagers. While a certain community of anime addicts were hooked to Animax others were just ignorant about it. For them, the shows that aired on Animax India were nothing more than animated cartoons that they could not understand. And by the time they got interested the channel was long gone.
However, we can’t really put the blame on the audience alone, Animax India had put a blind eye on promotions and merchandising as well. Let’s see why really did Animax India stop and if there is a fix to this curious case.
Journey of Animax in India:
On 4th July 2004, Sony Pictures Entertainment came up with an Anime dedicated Indian television channel ANIMAX, whose brand ambassador was Irfan Pathan. It was operated and broadcasted from Singapore by Animax Asia and distributed by Sony Pictures Networks Pvt. Ltd. targeting an audience of 15-25 age demographic.
The slogan “ANIMAX daisuki!”, as many of you might remember, had our heart. It simulcasted shows the same day as Japan or at least in the same week. It had dubs in Hindi and English, later changed to original Japanese dubs with English subs.
With the decline in profits in 2007, Animax gradually started putting in live-action shows like SpiderMan 2, Hellboy and Kungfu hustle from its sister channels. Later they also tried to pull traffic by simulcasting the ultra popular series Supernatural along with Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles exclusively in entire Asia.
Still fighting for the love of anime, in 2012 Animax returned to its primary theme Anime, but unfortunately, it did not go well. With the advent of DTH providers, we lost cable TV with it went Animax India. The channel could not get as popular as they expected resulting in them being unable to pay carriage fees. In 2016, Tata Sky, gave ANIMAX India a last chance in their DTH provision but that too went to waste.
On 18th April 2017, Animax ceased to exist in regular Indian television once and for all. It was then replaced by Sony Yay, which airs mostly local home grown content which became popular with kids.
Even though it was hopeless for Animax to return in regular tv, Sony Pictures Networks wanted to give a last shot believing times had changed,and made Animax Asia HD available as a live channel on its Indian digital platform, Sony LIV. But, with the internet in our hands, who would watch tv with high monthly payments for limited shows? Thus, the 14 year old journey of Animax ended in 8th May 2020, with Animax Asia HD gone.
This was the looong hectic journey that our beloved channel went through but eventually failed to meet its goal. What can be the main reasons? Who is to blame here? Let’s find out.
Why did Animax India Stop?
As I said in the intro, Animax was a new concept brought to India in the 90s along with other Western cartoons. While the western animations got a front seat, Japanese animation was still on standby. Both of the mediums were hand-drawn but Anime had a distinct style and a strong dedicated content- for which India was not ready.
The main reasons for why ANIMAX stopped because it could no longer pay the carriage fee to the DTH and cable providers. A loss of TRP is the major reason for Animax being in loss and not being able to pay up. And it could be attributed to the following:
- Lack of Matured Audience
- Lack of Promotions and Merchandising
- Unavailability of Internet
Problem 1: Lack of Matured Audience
By the demography at that time,the population density of Youth was not enough to spike up the popularity of Animax India. The audience were mostly toddlers or grown men and women who had little to no interest in Anime.
Even if the privileged children could tune in to the channel, the matured content like relationships, brutal killing and idealisms were against Indian parental principles.
Within this section, another element that might work in the background is the cultural differences. Many parents have a notion that watching shows of other countries might affect their kids’ cultural beliefs. Thus, such a reduced number of audiences could not bring sufficient TRP to the channel.
Problem 2: Limited Promotions and Merchandising
Gone are the days when anilovers would go crazy to find Duel Masters or Pokemon cards in their nearby road shops. Now, the scenario is different. Animax made one big mistake; not getting to know the Indian mindset. Back then, if ANIMAX would have promoted more, included some of their kids content along with the popular Shounens then there might have been a chance to flourish. When it comes to merchandising, it was and still is too hard to find authentic anime merchs at a reasonable price.
I clearly remember finding Naruto Shippuden stickers from a roadside “Sticker Uncle” who knew nothing about anime. I had no money on me(indian parents don’t trust their kids with money) but my little cousin brother happened to sneak in some from an elder. I know what I did is embarassing and wrong, b-but it was my only chance to buy ‘cause there is no guarantee the uncle will come tomorrow or not!
Such was the dilemma when it comes to Anime Merchs. In recent times, Online Shopping websites saved us.
Problem 3:Unavailability of Internet
In today’s world, we are all connected with the internet from day to night. Every news travels like wildfire and we can take actions instantly. But, it was an impossible fantasy even a few years ago. By stats, only 4% Indians had access to internet around 2006, which transformed to a raging 50% in 2020.
Now the Internet has taken over almost all the entertainment mediums- tv series, movies, news everything. We, the significant youth barely watch or rather have time to sit and watch anything provided by the DTHs nowadays. So, it is not a pipe dream, that if we all had free internet and smartphones back then we could have popularized Anime flamboyantly like other Western countries. But what is done is done,this is where Animax India lost the game.
Is there a chance to bring back ANIMAX?
There is. Compared to the last decade, the Indian otakus and weebs have increased exponentially. If Animax were to return to India, it will certainly get more love. Standing in 2020, most of the problems that Anime as a medium of entertainment faced in India are gone. The only problem that remains is breaking the stereotype- “Animes are for kids”. Yeah, I know. It is an irony that as kids most of us didn’t know what ANIMAX was and now when we are begging for it to return, it is not easy(because the Indian Entertainment Industry is intimidated).
The time when ANIMAX India launched was just not right. It didn’t read the audience well, and neither did the audience care enough to respond to its call. However, now the times have changed and if ANIMAX India wants to return then it is the perfect opportunity to grab.
Of course, we have evolved from television to online platforms, but it would be such a great news if we get an Anime dedicated channel, right!! For this, Yuki Kawamura along with his folks at Akatsuki Inc. is doing great job at taking the first steps to use localised animation talents to attract Indian anime lovers in a widespread scale. This will not only increase anime viewers but also, a chance to acknowledge the Anime Fandom as a culture.
Finally, I can say that there is no use crying for what was inevitable- “everthing happens for a reason“. The 14 long years of ANIMAX in India was a rough journey for Anime. The tales of the beloved channel that we get to know now only increases our respect for ANIMAX more. All the dedicated audience will always remember the efforts this channel did for Indian anime lovers. Let’s hope for the best and look forward to the brightest era of Anime to come in our country.