Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Feeling Better, but Not About The Stimulus

Yes, I am finally feeling a little better today, thank you very much! (No seriously, thanks for all the nice notes you guys sent via e-mail, I appreciate it!) I'm back to work but not pushing too hard this week, and I'm not too worried about my part of the scheduled updates and such to the store site - I'll ease back into that stuff over the next few days. We'll take care of the daily's and let the rest sort itself out later.

In the mean time, here are a few Odd's and Sodd's:

1) We got in a bunch of new figures yesterday, but I'm not going to let them post some of them until we have all the pre-orders sorted out. When that post does come, you'll understand why. :-)

2) I do plan on doing a regular newsletter this week, and I have a lot of content flagged for it so it should be a good read.

3) Recent schedule changes: The Case Closed Season #4 DVD Box Set got bumped to Feb 17th, but that's a moot point now since it came into stock early before I could tell you. Bandai has bumped the Gundam Seed Destiny DVD Collection #2 Boxed Set (Anime Legends) collection from Feb 24 to Apr 21, and the Wolf's Rain Perfect Collection DVD Boxed Set (Anime Legends) - Bumped from Feb 24 to Apr 7, which actually I may have already mentioned. Media Blasters finally gave us word that the previously MIA Voltron: Defender of the Universe DVD Collection #7 has been officially moved from Jan 14 to March 24, and I also just got word that Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit DVD #3 is running late and won't be shipping until around the end of February. I'm seeing other retailers post all sorts of new guesses for it from Feb 28 all the way out to Mar 17, but none of those are official and MB has only committed to shipping it as soon as they can. Bandai announced that they have killed the Limited Edition version of Lucky Star #6, but the regular DVD will ship as scheduled, providing further reinforcement that R1 Anime studios never die, they just fade away...

4) Much to my surprise, people are jumping all over the new Sam 7 BluRay box and the Akira BluRay releases. In fact, at this rate, we're going to be sold out of both in a couple of days and we've had to order more stock - a lot more! I thought the MSRP on both was a little too high on these, but apparently there are a lot of people who don't.

5) I was going over schedules in my sick bed over the weekend, and noticed that between the Jan and the Feb versions of ADV Films release schedule, their planned March releases went from a total of 18 to only 11 and all the Switchblade stuff disappeared along with a few other things, and there are no Switchblade titles scheduled for April now either. They've been releasing 4 or 5 of those \ a month since September, and I wonder if that line isn't working out, or if more trouble is brewing down in Houston. You know, one day ADV is going to roll over and you guys are going to go nuts trying to find UltraValkyrie or King Jing on DVD. Oh wait, I forgot, if that happens Funimation will probably re-release those as well. When that happens I'm going to fly to Houston personally to buy John Ledford's desk at the auction. HEH...

So onward and upward. And not to switch gears or anything, but I do want to soap box about a couple of non-Anime items:

First ,this stimulus bill they are trying to pass is probably one of the worst pieces of pork barrel spending ever crafted. We'll, maybe Bandai Visual's R1 marketing strategy might come a close second on the all time most ill conceived hit parade. I listened to the senate debates on C-Span (on my Zune no less) while I was sick, and just can't believe how bad this bill is. It seems like they have jettisoned all the good ideas out of hand and what's left is just the garbage (just REALLY expensive garbage). So I watched the presidential address on TV last night, as I'm sure all the rest of you did, and it struck me how frustrated Obama looked. I think if you read between the lines, he's not frustrated that the stimulus bill is taking so long to get worked out, I think behind the scenes he's frustrated with having to go before the American people and sell that lousy bill. He went to Harvard, he knows it's crap, but he can't go against the party. Or maybe I'm wrong about that. Welcome to Washington Barack, where helping people is not the consideration, only getting re-elected. Personally I think they should tear it up and start over as I've never seen anything good come when someone rushes to make a terrible mistake.

In the spirit of the Cuban Missile Crisis, remember that we never find out how close we came to disaster until six months later. Here is Rep. Paul Kanjorski of PA (a Democrat), who is the Capital Markets Subcommittee Chair telling C-Span yesterday how close we came to total economic collapse back in September, and what the original TARP money was really about. Pretty scary:

Those damn evil bankers with their big salaries and casino junkets - who can figure out why they don't want to loan any more money against assets that are still dropping in value like a stone. It's just like those damn R1 studios. Why don't they want to license titles that they will loose money on? Just another a bunch of greedy bastards...right? -_^

Oh, by the way, about those little, um, 'porky' amendments in the stimulus bill? Well Sen. Chuck Schumer says people really just don't care about those anyway....


Starcade said...

Somebody needs to investigate ADV in Houston.

Something has been going down there for some time now.

The company is dead, has been dead for some time, and, realistically, has been unsavable for several years.

And, yet, no one really knows who has the 20% stock in ADV that Sojitz/ARM bought, ADV is basically siphoning off all its work into a bunch of "front companies", as if it's trying to stick Sojitz/ARM (or whoever holds stock in ADV itself) with worthless paper so that all their work can go into Switchblade and the like...

And then there's the one more thing: how is ADV, in this economy, going to get the money to ramp back up within about a year, as the people behind ADV have said...

The only way I could see that is if all the other US companies go under this year, and ADV emerges, funky accounting and all, as the only game in town...

Something gives me a sick feeling that that's what's been going on here...

dragonsky1 said...

ADV is a private company, and a rather small one at that. I doubt anyone would take the time or effort to investigate them. It doesn't seem that they are doing anything illegal, at least we have no indications themselves.

And no one at ADV says they plan to ramp back up in a year. They said they are in a position to be able to scale up easily should their sales improve.

As for Sojitz' former stake in ADV, no one really knows. And I doubt anyone really cares. It could be held by another company, a debtor like a bank, or by Ledford himself. It's also possible that Sojitz simply wrote it off as a bad investment and no longer cares.

To be honest, I have a lot of bad feelings about R1 companies right now. I'm not too worried about ADV right now, as they're aren't licensing anything right now. But I am worried a lot about Funimation and Bandai. I've seen first hand how badly some of their titles are doing at retail, especially in B&M stores like Best Buy, who happens to be their biggest customer. You think they would have learned not to be so overdependant on one customer, but apparently not. Right now, we're sending back 5-7 Bandai and Funi DVD's for each one we sell.

There are so many correlations between what Funimation is doing now, and what ADV did a few years ago. Being over dependent on one customer, i.e. Best Buy this time, and licensing everything under the sun regardless of sales potential never works out. Not to mention they have the Funi channel which is a black whole. Having a financially questionable parent company like Navarre doesn't make me anymore optimistic. Also, hundreds of Funi, and Bandai, discs popping up at Big Lots and Dollar General doesn't make me feel any better. I think 2009 is going to be a bad year for R1 anime.

bleachedIchigo said...

Starcade needs mental help

pathetic that he goes around evarywhere posting the same crap for months lol

starcade's predictions have been proven wrong time after time and no wonder hundreds of people laughed you out of anime on dvd and banned you. haha

Starcade said...

bleachedichigo: They laughed me out because they're delusional idiots. Take from that what you will. You just want your no-rules playground where you grope voice actresses and steal all your anime off the Net.

Starcade said...

Now, for a more intelligent comment:

dragonsky1: There had been word, right about at the time of the Funimation taking of the Sojitz licenses, that the local sheriff had to be called in (property seizure? investigation??)...

Something is going on with those guys, and no one, Robert included, should ever believe anything out of their mouths again.

As I said, there's a lot here that makes no sense, other than an outright fraud. (For what purpose? Fame? Money?? Who knows?)

ADV is dead, and has been dead for some time. The Sojitz sale of ADV's titles over the Sojitz timeframe to Funimation finished it, but the fact is that they believe they can get funding?

I want to know where. I want to know who is stupid enough to buy into this fraud.

Whoever has the stock that was part of the Sojitz situation now has nothing, thanks to ADV siphoning off all the work of value (what little there was) to front companies and leave ADV not only bankrupt, but with nothing to seek.

That's fraud. That's taking all of ADV's assets and shuffling them around in funny accounting to the other companies, and you notice that Robert isn't getting what he was promised from them either.

dragonsky1 said...

Starcade, there were also rumors from several sources during the whole mess that Funimation had taken over ADV and was liquidating them. Well, ADV is still around and un-liquidated. And the Anime Network has yet to be replaced with the Funimation Channel.

I've learned you have to take rumors in anime with a grain of salt, regardless of where they're coming from. I've also learned in business, you can't always trust business man as they're always going to talk up their companies, no matter how bad things are. This includes Funimation. (The only exception appears to Media Blasters, as John Sirabella is very upfront about the problems facing his company and others.)

Setting up Sentai to handle licenses for ADV is not illegal, and it's a tactic that other companies have employed in the past. (I assume this is what you're referring to.) It protects the licenses from any obligations or debts that ADV may have, and allows Ledford and company a new company with which to seek funding. And obivously they got funding from somewhere, ($1.2 million according to one of John Sirabella's cryptic posts and he's usually pretty reliable.) If there was no new funding, they wouldn't have been able to pick up the several TBS shows they grabbed, even with no dubs on the new titles.

I honestly don't know why you are so concerned with the 20% of ADV that Sojitz/ARM once owned. What difference does it make to you? Unless it's a publicly traded company you have a stake in, which make such big stink about it?

Isn't the R1 anime industry gloomy enough today, especially with the recent news from Best Buy? I don't think you need to make it your personal quest to make things worse.

Robert said...

I've also learned in business, you can't always trust business man as they're always going to talk up their companies, no matter how bad things are.

I never do that - ever. Neither should those studio execs. My main beef with ADV has always been the lack if transparency during the crisis last year. Not only did they tell fans everything was OK, they told retailers everything was OK as well, and then licenses were pulled and titles were not completed and they left it up to us to deal with the angry fans and take the losses for inventory that was no longer sellable. There is certainly nothing illegal in what they do (it just business), and they are free to run their company as they like (and run it into the ground if they like), and while he's not right about everything, some of Starcade’s criticism is deserved. I don't think people need to remain cheerleaders for companies once they make it obvious that they don't have their customers best interests at heart.

A little revolution is a good thing from time to time.

dragonsky1 said...

Yes, I agree that his criticism is warranted. And yes, ADV should have been more transparent during their problems with Sojitz. But I also ask myself if that would have solved anything. People would still have been mad, titles would still have been left in limbo. ADV would have just been more honest, and probably lost more money and sales as a result.

My only point was that what ADV did was not illegal, which you yourself agreed with.

But I do stand by the point that most executives will talk up their company no matter how bad the outlook is. Look at Ford Motor for instance. They keep saying they won't need further financing because the auto market will sell nearly 12 million vehicles in 09. Meanwhile everyone else is saying it will be closer to 9.5 million. Navarre is another good example (Funi's parent). They expect to recover some of the lost software sales to Circuit City through other channels. Well, I'd hate to break it to them, they won't. Best Buy and most other chains are cutting back their software assortments because sales are in the toilet, and that's not going to change anytime soon.

But I do agree with Starcade on that all the R1's are in trouble. Funimation has gone on a licensing binge just as the economy tanked (though I will admit many were acquired before that) and it's biggest customer is cutting orders. Bandai's apparent biggest titles have been huge failures in B&M stores, notably Lucky Star. Plus, you have their persistent quality issues resulting in problems for retailers and big returns. Then you have ADV and no one really knows what is going on there or whether they will be in business for another year, and Media Blasters who at least will admit they're having a tough time. We may end up with only Nozomi/Right Stuf when all is said and done.

But it's gonna be tough the next year or two, especially for dub fans.

Robert said...

ADV should have been more transparent during their problems with Sojitz. But I also ask myself if that would have solved anything.

It probably would not have helped with any of the immediate problems, but it would have going forward. Since then our sales data has shown more fans shunning ADV titles than there should be. Fans have little confidence in them now. There is customer reluctance to purchase new shows until they are all out. More than a few folks are waiting for the 2nd Clannad set to street before they purchase the first one. I don't think this would be the case had ADV handled their customer relations better last year. They have ruined their relationships with many of the dedicated Anime retailers and distributors out there too. But that's all water under the bridge now in any case.

Navarre is another good example (Funi's parent). They expect to recover some of the lost software sales to Circuit City through other channels. Well, I'd hate to break it to them, they won't.

You're absolutely right about that, they won't. I worry about Navarre's financial situation because of their debt load (they are a high debt / cash flow reliant company), but their financials are not too terribly bad (at least, what they show us) and we have seen niche demand stabalize over the last 60 days after falling off a cliff last fall, so their fate will depend on what happens going forward and if the scenerio turns worse. I do feel like the newer licenses that Funi is picking up are on the cheap and will be more profitable, but those titles won't be available to draw revenue from for many months.

We may end up with only Nozomi/Right Stuf when all is said and done.

I worry about Brand X (Shawne's company). They are a high debt / cash flow based model as well. He's got a huge overhead in that gigantic warehouse operation and staff out there in Grimes and is really struggling to figure out what to do with it all now that overall volume is down so much. He has a big inventory problem too. On the studio side, Nozomi can only remain viable as long as Shawne's parent operation can continue to subsidize it. And I certainly wish them no malice, as their titles are excellent sellers in our market (but probably only in our market). All that said though, with only 1 or 2 titles a year, and sales mostly through only the niche retailers, their contribution is more or less irrelevant to the market as a whole. Nozomi can only exist in a space where two or three larger studios carry the load, and again, I say that with no malice towards them. In the strange world of the Anime business, they are our partner as well as our competitor.

But it's gonna be tough the next year or two, especially for dub fans.

Indeed. Everything hinges on the economy now. In many ways, it's out of our hands.