Anime News Network has started a new multi part series on the business of anime. Here is an excerpt from part 1.
It used to be, back in the 80s when Japan was flush with money, a company would just decide to make a one- or two-part OAV. They'd throw a few hundred thousand dollars at an animation production company, and the production company would haphazardly churn out an OAV. They'd release it on video, a few thousand rental shops across Japan would buy copies, and the show would turn a tidy profit. Or if a longer series seemed possible, the TV networks would pay most of the cost, and support the show with commercials.
Those days are long gone. The collapse of Japan's bubble economy hit the rental market hard, and media companies stopped feeling so adventurous about making direct-to-video content. The TV networks also drastically cut the number of shows they're willing to spend money on...
The article is very good and it show how much the industry has changed from the "Golden Age" of the 1980's