New Yu-Gi-Oh! Episodes Subject to 60-Day Streaming Delay under Konami Management

June 25, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Konami, Saban, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | 8 Comments
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Seto Kaiba being dealt the finishing blow by Yugi's Exodia in episode 1

If you’re used to waking up on Saturday mornings and catching Yu-Gi-Oh! on The CW, don’t worry, nothing’s going to change as a result of 4Kids’ upcoming transaction with Konami and Saban. From the point Konami and Saban assume control of their respective new businesses until the Fall season begins in September, Saban will broadcast two episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal and two episodes of classic Yu-Gi-Oh! every Saturday morning, just as 4Kids has been doing. Then, once the Fall season commences, Saban will continue to air two episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal while only broadcasting one episode from an older Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series.

As of the end of May 2012, 4Kids has purchased the first 41 episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, so expect 4Kids, Konami, and Saban to already be preparing these for the Fall season. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Yu-Gi-Oh! will continue to air on The CW at least through the Summer 2016 season.

The management of the Yu-Gi-Oh! property under Konami and Saban is not all happy news, however. As part of its deal with Saban, Konami will be imposing an exclusivity period on all new Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes, during which an episode will not be allowed to be exhibited on any platform for 60 days after it initially airs on The CW. That’s right, on any platform. Konami explicitly cites streaming on Hulu and Netflix as verboten during this period.

It is not immediately clear whether Konami’s exclusivity period extends to the new Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal episodes that are the counterparts of the new English-dubbed episodes that will air on The CW. Japanese episodes are not broadcast on The CW, so are they not subject to the restriction? This is assuming, of course, that Konami will even continue streaming subbed Japanese episodes as 4Kids has been doing.

Nevertheless, all of this does mean that Konami intends to seek approval from the Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! licensors to continue streaming the Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes. If given the okay, the episodes will appear on The CW’s and/or Saban’s websites. Episodes will not be available on download-to-own and subscription video-on-demand services.

Part of the streaming deal requires that the licensors allow Saban to stream footage from the Yu-Gi-Oh! series as part of short promo videos to advertise the streams. In the event that Saban is not granted these rights, streaming Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes will not be available anywhere.

…And you thought a 60-day delay was bad! Let’s hope Konami and Saban pull through and keep Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes on the web!

4Kids’ Sale of Yu-Gi-Oh! Business, CW Block to Konami, Saban Worth $15+ Million

June 23, 2012 at 7:16 am | Posted in 4Kids, Other Stuff | Leave a comment
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Joey cheering for Mai in her duel against Marik in episode 91

Further details of 4Kids Entertainment’s proposed sale of its Yu-Gi-Oh! business and CW programming block have emerged, the most significant of which is the hefty sum that 4Kids will receive for selling these assets to Konami and Saban: $15 million. Additionally, the sale will allow 4Kids to pay off all of its uncontested bankruptcy claims and still leave it with over $11 million for equity. As part of their deal, Konami and Saban will also be extending employment offers to certain (as yet unnamed) 4Kids employees so that their businesses can proceed uninterrupted.

The decision to consider a joint transaction — with Konami-affiliate 4K Acquisition assuming control of 4Kids’ Yu-Gi-Oh! business and Saban-affiliate Kidsco Media Ventures receiving 4Kids’ Saturday morning programming block on The CW — came about after six rounds of bidding during the June 5th auction. Before the auction was halted, Saban had the best bid of $11.8 million plus other “non-cash consideration,” while Konami had entered a prior bid of $11 million plus other “non-cash consideration.”

Konami and Saban’s joint bid is significantly more favorable to 4Kids than either of the individual bids alone.

Barring another abrupt rescheduling, a hearing will take place on Tuesday, June 26 where the court is expected to approve this transaction. The parties are then expected to seal the deal around the end of this month. If the deal is not realized by July 15, this transaction will be terminated and the auction will resume.

Why Did Konami and Saban Split 4Kids’ Assets?

While Konami and Saban were predominantly interested in different things, they were nevertheless initially bidding on nearly all of 4Kids’ properties.

The need to split up the assets was driven in part by 4Kids’ existing contract with The CW. According to their agreement, The CW is guaranteed $11.5 million from ad revenue each year. If the ad sales are sluggish and The CW doesn’t receive its full cut, 4Kids is required to pay the network the difference. Whoever assumes control of the CW block would have to shoulder this responsibility — no easy task considering how the children’s ad market has substantially weakened in recent years.

Saban, a seasoned veteran of the children’s television entertainment industry, was eager to pick up the programming block. It negotiated a better deal with The CW that dictated the amount it was responsible for paying the network if it took control of the block. Saban also established a limit to the amount that 4Kids already owed the network. The CW was enticed by the prospect of working with Saban.

However, when Konami entered the picture, The CW balked at the possibility of doing business with the less experienced company, insisting that if Konami purchased 4Kids’ programming block, The CW would still want the full $11.5 million annual ad revenue guarantee. For 4Kids, this was disastrous. There was an overwhelming concern that because Konami (or any potential buyer other than Saban) would need to put a significant amount of cash on the table to meet these demands, there may not be another bidder.

4Kids knew that Saban was primarily interested in The CW’s programming block and that Konami was primarily interested in the Yu-Gi-Oh! property. A week before the bids were due, 4Kids approached the two parties and suggested dividing up the assets. And although they were not able to reach an agreement right then and there, and 4Kids’ assets eventually headed to auction anyway, the trio were shrewd and resourceful enough to recognize the value of the splitting the assets. Ultimately, the path to the best possible deal had been paved, and each company was eventually able to get what it most desired.

Konami to Buy 4Kids’ Yu-Gi-Oh! Business, Saban to Buy 4Kids’ CW Programming Block

June 16, 2012 at 3:25 am | Posted in 4Kids, Other Stuff | 3 Comments
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Joey calling out Kaiba in episode 66
The face that 4Kids, Konami, and Saban’s execs will make upon inking their deals

Early details from 4Kids Entertainment’s “alternative transaction” with Konami-backed 4K Acquisition and Saban-backed Kidsco Media Ventures have surfaced, revealing that Konami is seeking to assume the entirety of 4Kids’ Yu-Gi-Oh! business, while Saban is looking to pick up 4Kids’ Saturday morning programming block on The CW. Shocking, I know.

For Konami, which already manages the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game and Yu-Gi-Oh! video games, adding 4Kids’ Yu-Gi-Oh! License to its arsenal will just be another step for the company to strengthen the Yu-Gi-Oh! brand. The fact that it will no longer need to pay royalties to 4Kids is also a plus, of course.

Konami’s deal with 4Kids will include every Yu-Gi-Oh! anime property in 4Kids’ repertoire, as well as all of the domestic and international merchandising and anime licenses that 4Kids has procured for the Yu-Gi-Oh! brand over the years. Additionally, Konami will be assuming the lease to 4Kids’ Manhattan property. (4Kids’ London-based subsidiary is not included in the deal.)

For Saban, the force behind the Power Rangers franchise, landing a children’s programming block will certainly evoke memories of the mid to late 90s, when it dominated that market on Fox. Saban will no doubt take full advantage of the Saturday morning children’s programming block on The CW (one of the last blocks of its kind on broadcast television) to showcase its Power Rangers brand and draw in some healthy ad sales. Saban will also score 4Kids’ broadcast rights to Cubix, Dragon Ball Z Kai, and Sonic X in the deal.

Needless to say, the details of these transactions are still subject to change and the sale still requires approval from the court. The sale hearing is currently scheduled for June 20.

Update (June 18): The sale hearing has been pushed back yet again to Tuesday, June 26.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Premieres October 15 on the CW4Kids Toonzai

September 27, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Posted in 4Kids, English dubbed, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | 5 Comments
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Screenshot from the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal teaser

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal will make its U.S. debut on Saturday, October 15! In less than three weeks, the newest Yu-Gi-Oh! series will be added to the 9:30 am time slot on the CW4Kids Toonzai, joining episodes of classic Yu-Gi-Oh!, Sonic X, Dragon Ball Z Kai, Magi-Nation, and 4Kids’ other new series, Tai Chi Chasers! (Check your CW affiliate’s local listings for the exact schedules.) This announcement came earlier today via Toonzaki’s Facebook page and 4Kids’ newest video upload to YouTube.

Details about 4Kids’ production of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal are still scarce, but Toonzaki is inviting everyone to chime in with their fantasy cast in its latest Facebook post. One thing is certain though: the “X” is no longer silent. It’s true! “Zexal” is now pronounced [zɛksəl], not [zil]. Gasp! I’m waiting for all of the ads and promos that take full advantage of the “X” in punny and extreme ways. C’mon, 4Kids, make it happen!

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal premiered in Japan in April earlier this year. Confirmation that 4Kids had exercised its rights to obtain the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal anime came to light in May, though it wasn’t immediately clear exactly when the company first picked up the series.

The Yu-Gi-Oh! Lawsuit: TV Tokyo and NAS v. 4Kids

Closing arguments for the first phase of the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit were delivered on Friday, September 23. Finer details about the trial have not been released as of this writing. Check my “lawsuit” tag for my previous posts about this subject, and keep it tuned here for more information as it arises.

It’s worth noting that, contrary to what you may have heard elsewhere, 4Kids’ production and debut of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal are unrelated to the outcome of the trial. As I’ve briefly commented on in the past, both the Japanese licensors and 4Kids have been operating — and continue to operate — as though each of them are in the right. Since March, the licensors have maintained that they justifiably terminated their licensing agreements with 4Kids. The licensors had also been soliciting new licensees for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal property and would still be doing so today had the court not blocked their actions. Similarly, 4Kids has maintained that it did not violate its agreements with the licensors and continues to produce and market the Yu-Gi-Oh! property, business as usual.

It’s equally worth noting that should 4Kids eventually lose its rights to the Yu-Gi-Oh! property, the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime will not abruptly be yanked from the airwaves, nor will Yu-Gi-Oh! merchandise suddenly disappear from store shelves. Per the terms of the Yu-Gi-Oh! License, the termination of the License won’t affect any third-party contracts that the 4Kids may have entered into. Contracts with TV broadcasters and home video and merchandise sub-licensees, for example, remain in effect and 4Kids retains the right to continue to act under the terms of those contracts. 4Kids will also still be able to continue earning money that is generated from its sub-licensing of the rights to the Yu-Gi-Oh! property, so long as those contracts were in effect before the License was terminated. 4Kids can continue to collect this money for either two years or until its contracts with the sub-licensees expire, whichever is less.

So don’t sweat it! Forget it! Enjoy the show — Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal! Saturday, October 15!

More Uncut, Subtitled 4Kids Shows Coming Soon: Enter Toonzaki

July 23, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Bonds Beyond Time, Other Stuff, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 1 Comment
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Logo for the ANNCast on Anime News Network

4Kids’ video portal at 4KidsTV.com will soon be seeing a lot of exciting changes! A new initiative is underway to revamp the portal, moving all of 4Kids’ familiar kid-friendly shows to 4Kids.TV and adding a brand-new platform just for uncensored, subtitled shows! The new website, called Toonzaki, will feature uncut videos from both 4Kids and other content providers and may be ready as early as the end of August. The original Japanese versions of Sonic X and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s are slated to appear on Toonzaki. That’s right: officially subbed Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s episodes are on their way!

Both Sonic X and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, along with Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters GX, were named as candidates for receiving uncut, subtitled releases back when the official Japanese episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters on YouTube met their demise nearly a year ago. So far, Sonic X is the only one of the three series to have seen such a release, so this latest announcement, which specifically pinpoints Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, comes with much fanfare and anticipation.

This exciting bit of news comes from Mark Kirk, a representative for 4Kids Entertainment who appeared yesterday on the ANNCast, a weekly podcast by Anime News Network writers Zac Bertschy and Justin Sevakis. Kirk is the Sr. VP of Digital Media at 4Kids and oversees their Internet businesses, including the digital distribution platforms 4KidsTV.com, YouTube, and Hulu. Kirk has been with the company since March 2007.

In the podcast, Kirk also talks about many of 4Kids’ upcoming plans, including a rebranding of their broadcast block, The CW4Kids, with an anime/Asian theme. The new programming block, Toonzai, will kick off with FUNimation’s Dragon Ball Z Kai for an August 14 preview. Additional shows will be added when the new season starts in September.

Kirk also gives many great tidbits about the inner workings of 4Kids, such as the processes and considerations that the company goes through when acquiring a property, the different regulatory methods involved in censorship and content rating, and their wise move away from the DVD market and into digital space. Not surprisingly, Kirk speaks at length about One Piece, the “square peg” that was forced into the “round hole” of American children’s television standards. Though 4Kids’ infamous production of that series took place before he joined the company, Kirk nevertheless offered valuable insight and opinions about that case.

As for further Yu-Gi-Oh!-related information, Kirk sets the record straight about what happened to the Yu-Gi-Oh! “Uncut Edition” DVDs: a combination of poor sales and possibly a “rights issue in terms of one of the [Japanese] voice actors” did them in. Though he doesn’t explicitly identify the voice actor, it’s almost certain that he’s referring to the contractual issues involving Shunsuke Kazama, the voice of Yuugi Mutou, which also led to the above-noted demise of the Japanese YGO DM series’ digital distribution. Admittedly, it’s a bit odd that DVDs released over five years ago might have been affected by this controversy, which, as far as anyone knows, only reared it’s ugly head last year. But you never know. Maybe someone really fouled up the paperwork and communications.

Additionally, when asked about a dubbed version of the Yu-Gi-Oh! 10th anniversary movie, Kirk cautiously reveals that “there is a movie, it was successful in Japan,” and that 4Kids is “currently in discussions regarding various release possibilities.” News coming out of Konami’s booth at San Diego Comic-Con, however, confirms that not only is there a movie (of course!), but that it is titled “Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time” and will be previewed at the Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship in Long Beach, California in August! Sounds like 4Kids’ official statement needs an update! Either that or Konami’s booth is staffed by rebels.

As a whole, the podcast and interview are very well done. Mark Kirk takes all of the questions in stride, including the tough ones, and leaves us with many exciting announcements and facts about what goes on behind the closed doors of a corporation specializing in children’s entertainment. Give it a listen!

Yu-Gi-Oh! Returns to Broadcast Television!

September 4, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Duel Monsters, English dubbed, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 2 Comments
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Bakura munching on some delicious food in episode 220

The original English episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! are making a grand return to broadcast television on Saturday, September 5th — that’s tomorrow! 4Kids’ Nameless Cubicle Office Guy has revealed that The CW4Kids will be airing the first and second episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! tomorrow beginning at 8:30 am. After that, Yu-Gi-Oh! will be airing every Saturday at 9:00 am, starting on September 19th.

The last time Yu-Gi-Oh! was broadcast in the U.S., there wasn’t even a CW4Kids or a CW Network. Back then, the cartoon block airing Yu-Gi-Oh! was called Kids’ WB, which was part of the WB Network. The final episode of Yu-Gi-Oh!, promoted back then as the “Yu-Gi-Oh! End Game” event, was shown in the summer of 2006. Wow, that felt like so long ago! Has Yu-Gi-Oh! been aired at all between now and then?

Hopefully, the return of Yu-Gi-Oh! will spark the interest of a whole new generation of duelists — a few of whom, through their adventures in the worlds of GX and 5D’s, may have never laid eyes on the original Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters series. One thing’s for sure though. This broadcast will finally put the “Yugi” back into “Yu-Gi-Oh!” (ugh, how corny!), so tune in!

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