It may come to a surprise for you, but the anime you typically watch is not what is considered mainstream in its country of origin, unless of course you watch shows made for children and families.
In fact, most of the anime that the international community consumes are what is called "late night anime." The overall ratings on these TV series are so low that the average Japanese person is likely never to have seen them. In other words, they are very niche. To compensate for low rating and viewership, these types of anime typically make money from Blu-ray, DVD, and other merchandise sales.
Since viewership is low, the budget for creating anime is pretty low as well. It's been mentioned by industry insiders that the average budget for a 1-cour, 13 episode series is about $2 million USD.
Low viewership of these anime is the result of a number of factors, the most prominent one being cultural. If you're not aware of how things works in Japan, office workers tend be expected to work 12 hour shifts regularly; students are also assigned large amounts of work (on top of any club commitments) and only get holidays and Sundays off. With all this work, who has time to stay up late to watch late night anime?
You're probably right, surely foreign investments in these productions can breathe new life into these productions. Unfortunately, the truth is a bit of a complicated one. As you may or may not be aware, all anime (with exceptions such as the Noitamina block) are glorified infomercials to promote not only manga, games, and light novel publishers, but also music production companies (who do you think profits off of those OP and EDs?), and general product advertisers such as Pizza Hut, and Lawsons. Product advertisers such as these don't care about sales, they're trying to sell themselves to you as opposed to the anime.
Such promotion and advertising deals don't usually pan out when it comes to international markets. If you recall the Pizza Hut references in Code Geass, the US versions blurred them out. The exact reason was never explicitly stated, but seeing that Pizza Hut Japan was such an overbearing sponsor domestically (as in within Japan), it's possible the negotiations fell through when Bandai was negotiating with the US entity of Pizza Hut. Despite sharing the same name and brand, Pizza Hut in Japan and Pizza Hut in the US are separate and distinct entities with their own ideals on doing business.
On top of that, localization rights to license a show don't come cheap and often times these don't include a mechnical license to use the music. Most of these licensing costs are paid upfront and if a series is successful enough, royalties must be paid to the original production committees (which can range from 20 to 30%). This makes things bit cost prohibitive to just bring whatever over, so localization companies need to be picky so they can pull off a product or at least pull even.
Without actual products to sell, the profit making possibilities of investing in new anime are slim. In 2013, the anime industry in Japan brought in over $2.03 billion USD from Japanese and international markets combined. In 2014, the Japanese manga industry made more than $2.3 billion USD just in Japan. In Japan, the symbiotic relationship of anime and manga works because of the existing infrastructure and relationships. However, in the US, everything is fragmented, making coordination between distributors all the more difficult.
As for the studio, they don't sell the distribution and merchandising rights of a IP that no longer is in distribution. Why would they? If you do, you're essentially telling the fans that you're abandoning this product, which could diminish their respect for the company and its products. Similar things have happened in the past such as with Macross and Robotech. While there were some good things to come out of such an affair (such as making the US audience aware of the type of animation known as anime), there were some downsides as well (Macross can never officially be released in the US as long as Harmony Gold hold the rights). What's to say the owner of the IP won't reboot the series later, like they did with Sailor Moon Crystal, Dragonball Super, or Osomatsu-san? For better or for worse the respective IP owners hold on to the rights of their respective IPs to preserve the integrity of the series for for themselves, it's creators, and for the fans. Why sell off something your people toiled for months and years to make to some strangers oversees to do with as they like? You don't have a say once you sell off the right to your IP. Who's to say American companies will respect the visions and idea of the original creators and fans?
However, not all is grim. There have been talks of joint ventures with Japanese companies to invest in anime for the international market.
Streaming video distributor Crunchyroll and Japanese trading company Sumitomo Corporation announced on Thursday that the two companies are establishing a joint venture which will invest in the production of anime for the international market.
That joint venture, whose entity name and size of investment have not been revealed, will take part in the production committees of anime titles which will then be distributed by Crunchyroll.
Sumitomo Corporation is one of Japan's largest general trading companies (sougou shousha). Its media division distributes content for cable television, terrestrial broadcasters, and cinemas. In recent years, it has increased investments in the business of creative content.
In February, Sumitomo partnered with Japanese media company Imagica Robot Holdings and the public-private Cool Japan Fund to acquire SDI Media, a U.S.-based provider of subtitling, translation, and language dubbing services.
According to the press release, Crunchyroll boasts 700,000 paying subscribers and more than 10 million monthly viewers. The report notes that international distributors such as Daisuki and Crunchyroll, as well as a number of Chinese companies, are increasingly taking part in production committees.
With the rising cost of licensing content for overseas distribution, content providers can ensure that they win distribution rights by investing in production instead of competing and paying high license fees. However, Anime! Anime! Biz also notes that Crunchyroll's aim is not merely rights acquisition.
Crunchyroll co-founder and CEO Kun Gao cites the increasing importance of overseas markets in the anime industry. In establishing the joint venture, the company aims to connect fans to the production of anime from the time of its inception. With the joint venture, Crunchyroll, which is traditionally strong in North America and Europe, can also expand its distribution network with Sumitomo, which is traditionally strong in Asia.
This is not to say only Crunchyroll is pursuing such a venue. Funimation and Netflix are doing the same. How well these new ventures will turn out is any one's guess. How well will these companies be able to reach international fans of anime, how well do these companies understand the current international market of anime and what fans want? Only time will tell...