4 Things You Need to Know About Sony’s $1.2 Billion Crunchyroll Acquisition

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Thanks to Crunchyroll, Sony is poised to expand its presence in the anime industry, which was worth an estimated $24 billion in 2019

Onyx Equinox Crunchyroll
Crunchyroll Collection / YouTube

Sony’s nearly $1.2 billion acquisition of Crunchyroll, the popular anime streaming service, is expected to give Sony a boost in the global entertainment market and in the multibillion-dollar anime industry. The deal, announced on Wednesday, essentially moves Crunchyroll — founded in 2006, acquired by Peter Chernin’s Otter Media brand in 2013 and then folded into WarnerMedia under AT&T in 2018 — to Sony Pictures Entertainment’s anime-focused Funimation Global Group. Though the deal is still pending, subject to regulatory approvals, here are four things to know about this major acquisition. 1. Crunchyroll will bolster Funimation’s library, adding original content and games The most obvious advantage to Sony in this deal is that Crunchyroll’s extensive library will boost Sony’s in-house animation company Funimation, which is a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment Japan’s subsidiary, Aniplex. Funimation, which has more than 700 anime series, primarily specializes in dubbing and distributing anime in North America and licenses popular titles like “Attack on Titan,” “Dragon Ball,” the “Fullmetal Alchemist” franchise and “One Piece.” With over 1,000 titles and distribution rights for over 30,000 episodes, Crunchyroll boasts one of the largest anime libraries online. Two years ago, the company created a gaming division to develop and publish web and mobile games in English-speaking markets based on televised anime shows and its manga library. This year, Crunchyroll took it a step forward by launching its own in-house animation studio, Crunchyroll Studios, and announcing a slate of eight original shows created in-house or in partnership with Japanese studios like MAPPA (“Attack on Titan: The Final Season”) and Production I.G (“Ghost in the Shell”). 2. This isn’t Sony’s first foray into anime Sony isn’t new to the game. Sony Music Entertainment Japan’s Aniplex, first created in 1995, has produced popular video games, music and shows. In recent years, Sony has also acquired other anime streaming services, such as France’s Wakanim and Australia’s AnimeLab, as well as its anime distributor Madman Anime. Last year, after Sony Pictures Television acquired the American anime distributor Funimation, the streaming services were consolidated under the Funimation name as a joint venture with Aniplex. 3. The acquisition will help Sony expand its presence in the anime industry Sony and Funimation are poised to benefit from an expanded presence in the anime industry, which was worth an estimated ¥2.51 trillion (roughly $24 billion) in 2019, thanks to Crunchyroll. In addition to its 70 million users around the world and three million paying subscribers, Crunchyroll also hosts a yearly anime convention, Crunchyroll Expo, that draws thousands of attendees — this year’s expo went virtual, due to the pandemic — and is a major sponsor behind another popular convention, Anime NYC. And last year, Crunchyroll also became the majority owner of the European arm of VIZ Media, a major anime distributor and manga publisher. 4. The deal is part of WarnerMedia’s asset-trimming as it focuses on HBO Max AT&T is seeking to recoup costs and pull itself out of debt following the 2015 acquisition of DirecTV and the 2018 acquisition of Time Warner. The telecom giant is now trying to sell off DirecTV. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar meanwhile, is betting big on its $14.99 per month streaming service HBO Max and, as a result, the company has been offloading or otherwise reworking smaller assets that don’t fit its streaming goal. “I believe WarnerMedia’s motivation is to further streamline and focus their longer-form digital entertainment efforts while cutting overhead in arenas that are no longer central to their business,” Tom Nunan, co-founder of Bull’s Eye Entertainment and former president of NBC Studios, told TheWrap. “I see this Crunchyroll sale as symptomatic as a larger ‘shedding of non-aligned assets’ that will continue well into 2021, if not beyond, on WarnerMedia’s behalf, under the new leadership of [Jason] Kilar.” Though Crunchyroll was originally set to curate content for HBO Max ahead of its launch, the recent announcement that all of Warner Bros.’ 2021 releases will release simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters has also signaled that the streamer is looking toward major tentpoles and blockbusters to attract subscribers. Samson Amore contributed to this report.


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