Shout! Factory and Mill Creek Entertainment have formed a multi-year distribution alliance to bring Tsuburaya Productions’ Ultraman superhero library to streaming services in North America.
The roots of Ultraman go back to the mid-1960s, when the original TV series first aired in Japan. It has since added many incarnations and spinoffs, maintaining popularity amid the global superhero boom in pop culture. The multi-year distribution deal spans more than 1,100 TV episodes and 20 movies.
Shout! Factory and its streaming service, Shout! Factory TV, will have exclusive subscription and ad-supported digital rights in the U.S. and Canada. Shout! Factory TV, whose app is available on a range of connected devices, plans an “aggressive rollout” of Ultraman titles this year on its new TokuShoutsu streaming channel, which is available on Pluto TV. Some of them have never before been viewable in North America.
Tsuburaya Productions and Indigo Entertainment are also partners in the initiative. Toys and merchandise from the Tsuburaya-produced titles generates about $50 million a year in revenue in Japan, the companies estimate.
The announcement was made by Shout! Factory founders and CEOs Bob Emmer and Garson Foos; Jeff Hayne, SVP of Mill Creek Entertainment; Shout’s Senior Vice President of Digital Enterprises and Shout! Factory TV, Gene Pao; and Jordan Fields, VP of Acquisitions at Shout! Factory.
“A colossus of the tokusatsu genre, Ultraman is one of the most beloved and enduring pop culture brands in the world and, amazingly, it’s still growing,” Fields said. “It’s particularly exciting to present more than 50 years of TV series and feature films to North American audiences, much of it for the first time. They’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and we aim to help that happen.”
Pao described the property as “a seminal pop-culture phenomenon,” noting that Shout! Factory TV has gotten good results from streaming Ultraman Leo and other Japanese tokusatsu series in the past. “As we actively expand our reach in streaming and digital platforms, this deal exemplifies the type of pop culture content we plan to pursue, which taps into the interests and passions of our loyal fanbase,” he added.
”We are thrilled about this collaboration with Shout! Factory,” Mill Creek’s Hayne said. “Their passion for tokusatsu content combined with the reach their digital channels have to fans will create further awareness of the Ultraman content library.”
As fans well know, Ultraman comes from the distant Nebula M78 and is a “giant of light” who protects Earth and the human race from aliens and monsters, with help from an Earth-based defense team. With the ability to extend his height to over 130 feet, Ultraman merges with a human and only emerges in times of extreme danger to save people and the planet.