One of the things that has really, really been bugging me lately has been the screaming lament of various people in the American anime industry about the fact that "fansubs are killing the industry! Nobody wants to buy anime if they can download it from the Internet via BitTorrent!" Fansubbing has been blamed for everything from haltosis to the end of Geneon Animation US (which, AFAIK, had the lovely trait of trying to sell anime in America in many of the same ways they sold it in Japan).
To the studios, I have a question for you. Serious question, too. If it isn't for fansubs, how in the hell am I supposed to get a English version of Legend of The Galactic Heroes? Or another series that has all the popular appeal of curling to the general audience? Or any of the really high-end, non-ecchi mecha series (like Gundam 00), which doesn't have an American audience, really?
Yet, the question does remain-how does the animation studios combat the problem of fansubs on the Internet? Especially since anime fansubs are reaching the point of becoming like the BitTorrent of Global Frequency-awesome, but killing any possibility of the show ever being "legit".
Answer-beat them to the punch.
This would require studios to coordinate their activities with American and British distributors, but quite frankly they should have done so years ago. Anime studio in Japan produces a new series-let's say it's a harem/mecha show (where the harem girls are the giant robots...). Twenty-four hours after the episode comes out, the American distributor (say, ADV Films) puts up a un-encrypted, digitally open, subtitled version of the episode. Accurately subtitled too (mostly because they have access to the scripts), and perfectly done. Probably a high-end AVI formatted file with stereo sound and all that.
The catch? There are commericals-for both anime that the distributor produces and anime the studio makes (even if it's via another distributor, they can put ads for their shows on there. Deal With It). Each of the ads has a code...which is shut off 24 hours later for special bonus items (like a web-only interview of the staff, a free download of the soundtrack off of iTunes, etc, etc).
This makes the episode about the same length it is in Japan. Yes, people can click over the ads and such...but that's not the point. The point is that the ads are there, and in theory are watched. And, there are reasons why people want to watch the ad, the WHOLE ad... (yes, those letters on the girl's bouncing breasts means something important...)
Which is a traceable demographic.
Which can be sold to other studios ("It looks like American fandom is really, really into series with characters of questionable sexuality and gender. Oh, and openly are doing each other, despite probably being siblings.").
Or used to improve your own internal anime development ("Moon Cow Elisa got twice as many hits as Bloody Opera Marie. More moe!").
Then, when the series comes out...heh, heh, heh...downloadable content. But you have to have entered and collected the codes from the entire Internet run of the series to get it...
I must contemplate this idea more.