Buyer’s Corner-Kevin Corcoran, President, Chief Buyer& Action Fan for Anime Network

Kevin Corcoran and I have a few things in common. We’re both Mac-heads and fans of giant robots. I’m not really sure what that means in the grand scheme of things, but I do know’considering the fact that my G4 spent yesterday in triage’that giant robots are probably the upside of that equation. As president of Anime Network, the first U.S. cable channel dedicated to the artform, Kevin would certainly agree.

A Houston-based lawyer, Corcoran took on the very industrious John Ledford as a client more than ten years ago. Corcoran has seen Ledford’s home business turn into a national phenomenon and a top U.S. importer, licensor, distributor and now broadcaster of Japanese anime. Also, he was convinced by the ever-enterprising Ledford to sign on with A.D. Vision Inc. as exec VP, CFO and COO. So his duties include oversight of the company’s many co-productions, its publishing arm, which produces hundreds of manga titles and the ultra-popular consumer magazine, NewType, as well as the creation of the VOD, soon-to-be 24-7 platform, the Anime Network.

If you’re interested in pitching in-development or already-produced content to Anime Network, Corcoran tells how in the Q&A that follows. But if you’re interested in doing business in Japan, he’ll also tell you that, for a naïve American, it can be a lot harder than you think…

Rita Street: I assume that one of your first duties after signing on with A.D. Vision was to go to Japan and learn business acumen. What was that like?

Kevin Corcoran: That’s right, and it was like going to a different planet. I actually worked for a Japanese company here in Texas during college, a company called Recruit, which is a huge personnel company and a very big deal over there. So, I was somewhat familiar with the culture, but it was really rough learning the business nuances and mannerisms and ways of speaking. It’s just culture shock, learning all that, and also learning about Japanese animation and how it differs from animation in the states.

RS: Could you give us a taste of that difference?

KC: Well, there are two big differences: The style of animation is a big one, but so is the manner in which the stories are told. American animation, like most American entertainment, is based on self-contained stories. Whether content is in a thirty- or sixty-minute format or even an episode in a serial, each piece can stand on its own. With Japanese storytelling you may spend three to four episodes just setting up the background without real action. So, if you come in midway, you’re lost. The stories are also much more complicated and mature. Until recently, most animation in America was for kids. Japanese animation has a rich tradition of complicated and serious stories.

RS: What was the most challenging aspect of launching a new network?

KC: After thirteen years in the home video market, we sort of backed into television. We had all this content so we thought, “Why not start our own network?” But then we started meeting with cable companies and learned that this was just not going to happen overnight. It was the cable companies that introduced us to the video-on-demand strategy, and that became a great way to get a network up and running-and to also prove to cable operators that there is a highly motivated, totally underserved audience out there for anime. So, to answer your question about the biggest challenge, it was convincing the cable operators that there’s an audience, which reminds me of when we first started and had to convince mass retailers to put videos and DVDs on their shelves. We had to go through that whole process before so it wasn’t really surprising.

RS: Do Americans have different tastes in anime than Japanese?

KC: Yes. There are certain animes that are well received all over the world, just like Lord of the Rings is well received all over the world. Other animes don’t do well in the U.S. and Europe. I think the U.S. market has a larger appetite for action and violence than Japan, but we’re less accepting of nudity than Japan or Europe.

RS: Is the demographic for the channel a lot like Spike TV.

KC: We’re primarily a male 18-34 demo, so we’re a little like Spike. We like anything that’s dark and violent, or hot chicks with guns, but we also like off-handed comedy and serious dramas and the always popular giant fighting robots. We do have a girls’ power block, though, and that’s different from Spike. I really like the marketing artwork for that-a lot of pink flowerly B52s and tanks. That block is targeted at 16-21 year-olds.

RS: Do you think it will be hard to attract girls to your network?

KC: We’ll see. In the last few years though, we’ve been seeing a growing number of young women at anime conventions.

RS: Are you open to buying content from Asian countries other than Japan?

KC: We are concentrated on Japan but also the whole idea of Asian youth culture. We’ve run some music videos from other countries. As an aside, it’s really interesting to see how American culture is reinterpreted through Asian pop culture. Rap bands have become really big.

RS: What makes a good pitch?

KC: Two things: Know your audience. Make sure your content is a good fit before you make your pitch; And make it short and simple, but include all the pertinent information in your package that you think a buyer will need. Ask yourself all the questions that the person pitching might ask, and make sure your sample tape is representative of the content you’re pitching.

RS: You mentioned a sample tape? Does that mean you have to see some animation?

KC: It’s important to see some concept of what the characters will look like and the main backgrounds. But, remember, anime is visual. The story is important, but the visual aspects are extremely important.

RS: Can our readers pitch original content as well as completed work?

KC: Both. We’re already involved in several co-productions. It’s too early to talk about those right now so let’s just say we’re very open to original work.

RS: How do our readers pitch to you?

KC: They can contact Amanda Nanawa, program manager, at [email protected]

RS: Finally, what’s your favorite anime?

KC: Samurai X, about a former samurai assassin who lives in secrecy. It’s a really great story, like a Greek tragedy, and the animation is top-notch.