So unless you have been under a rock all day the big news out of New York Anime Festival is that Funimation and NicoNico are collaborating to form a group called Funico. This is quite complex so let me break this down a bit to make it simple. Basically, NicoNico will stream anime. Funimation will no longer stream since NicoNico will be doing this. Then Funimation looking at the numbers from NicoNico can determine if they want to release the show in the US and Canada. This benefits all groups involved in this, but the biggest benefit would anime fans in general. This benefits anime fans in two ways both, which are positive. One, there will be more shows that are going to be streamed legally. The second way is that there will be likely more shows to be released in US and Canada leading to more money for the anime companies and more money for future shows.
Now that does not mean that this is not without some issues. First, the video player for NicoNico is not to the same quality as Crunchyroll so for the moment those who use CR and not N2 will be more likely to keep using CR until N2 is able to have HD video and better encoding. Next, because of the pact Funico is more likely to get first dibs are upcoming shows for a given season. This also could mean that if CR gets a show there will be less of a chance that Funimation will license it. That does not mean that they will not say no to a licensor, but there is still a chance that this could happen. It goes without saying that this will affect Crunchyroll but how this will affect them remains to be seen. If it comes to be Crunchyroll may have to align itself with a home video licensee to stay in the game.
Third is what about fans outside of North America? NicoNico wants to be an international streaming site, but Funimation is active only in US and Canada. So does this mean that Funimation will start having products be available in English speaking countries? I do not know but we will have to wait and see how it turns out. What about the other companies that releases shows in North America. Sentai is doing alright by itself but the other companies while they were at a disadvantage already are now even more between a rock and a hard place.
The last but most important thing to look at is Funimation itself. While Funimation will still be a separate company, they are going to be even larger now they have aligned themselves with NicoNico. My biggest concern is that Funimation may potentially drive out the competition and end up being the only major distributor in North America for anime. The other big concern that I have is that Funimation can get too big and was we often see when a company gets too big they start to decline in quality.
Legal streaming is an important part of watching anime now and in the future. This joint collaboration between Funimation and NicoNico can help bring more shows available each season to be available for legal streaming and benefit anime fans by potentially having more shows get physical releases down the road. I am no mind reader but so I have no idea how this will turn out, but I hope that this does turn out for the best.