The ICv2 Awards are a continuation of a tradition begun in Internal Correspondence, the print predecessor of ICv2, over 15 years ago. The awards are given as a way of reflecting on the events of the year and to draw some conclusions from them. The ICv2 Awards are based entirely on the business impact of the events on retailers, as determined by the editorial staff of ICv2.
Deal of the Year -- Navarre Acquires FUNimation
Early in 2005 the Navarre Corporation, a producer and distributor of a broad range of home entertainment and software media products based in New Hope, Minnesota, announced that it was buying the privately held FUNimation Productions Ltd, one of the leading American anime companies. The deal was finalized in May, and the fact that Navarre is a publicly held corporation should provide greater visibility into American anime market. As part of the acquisition process, Navarre released FUNimation's sales from 2001 ($49.8 million) through 2004 ($72.4 million) as well as the company's healthy pre-tax profits, which ranged from $20 million in 2001 to $29.8 million in 2004.
But the acquisition does more than merely provide a key industry player's sales figures. In the wake of the acquisition FUNimation has been very aggressive in going after some of the top anime licenses in Japan, and has also announced plans to create a 24-hr digital FUNimation channel for satellite and cable distribution.
Phenomenon of the Year -- Anime Merchandise Goes Mainstream
Anime and manga-related merchandise has been around for years, but it's typically been handled by small import/export companies. In 2005 this niche market started to make in-roads into the mainstream. On the retail side of the equation the Hot Topic chain of mall stores signed deals with Geneon, Viz, and other anime companies and began carrying a variety of merchandise based on a number of leading anime properties. Meanwhile on the distribution side, Broccoli, which is affiliated with the Japanese retail chain Anime Gamers, began importing a wide range of 'character goods' ranging from calendars to apparel, all of which is available to pop culture retailers. Key toy importers such as Toynami, which signed a Naruto license; Yamato, which continues to market high quality anime-based figures; and Diamond Comic Distributors, which imports a wide variety of items from a number of Japanese toy manufacturers, continued to expand their anime offerings.
Marketing Campaigns of the Year -- ADV and Viz
We have a tie in this category for 2005 thanks to two companies that came up with very audacious and innovative ways to reach out to and expand the audience for anime in America. ADV began using Bit Torrent, the file sharing service often utilized to illegally download movies and TV series, as a marketing tool by providing free downloads of expanded trailers, picture galleries and other extras designed to allow customers to experience an anime series before having to buy it. Viz's marketing campaign for its Inuyasha movies was equally bold -- semi trucks that became mobile theaters that provided free showings of Inuyasha films in Wal-Mart parking lots all over the country.