AT&T has agreed to sell Crunchyroll to Sony for $1.175 billion, where it will become part of Sony’s Funimation Global Group, a joint venture between Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Pictures Entertainment.
“The Crunchyroll team has done an extraordinary job of not only growing the Crunchyroll brand but also building a passionate community of anime fans. Crunchyroll’s success is a direct result of the company’s culture and commitment to their fans,” said Tony Goncalves, Chief Revenue Officer, WarnerMedia. “By combining with Funimation, they will continue to nurture a global community and bring more anime to more people. I’m incredibly proud of the Crunchyroll team and what they have been able to accomplish in the digital media space in such a short period of time. They’ve created an end-to-end global ecosystem for this incredible art form.”
“We are proud to bring Crunchyroll into the Sony family,” said Tony Vinciquerra, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. “Through Funimation and our terrific partners at Aniplex and Sony Music Entertainment Japan, we have a deep understanding of this global artform and are well-positioned to deliver outstanding content to audiences around the world. Together with Crunchyroll, we will create the best possible experience for fans and greater opportunity for creators, producers and publishers in Japan and elsewhere. Funimation has been doing this for over 25 years and we look forward to continuing to leverage the power of creativity and technology to succeed in this rapidly growing segment of entertainment.”
Rumors of Crunchyroll’s sale were flying around for months prior to this news — Sony was first reported to be working on a deal in October. It was originally thought that AT&T was targeting a $1.5 billion sale price. Regardless of a slight decrease in return, the sale is smart for AT&T and WarnerMedia, which have been steadily unloading assets to pay down debt.
Sony’s in-house animation outfit Funimation isn’t huge, so acquiring Crunchyroll’s steadily rising user base and access to premium anime content ensures Sony will have a strong hold on the valuable anime content market.
In April, Crunchyroll reported it had 60 million users worldwide, with about 2 million of those paying its $8 per month ad-free subscription fee. The network has one of the largest online collections of anime and manga, including subtitled and dubbed content. Crunchyroll’s head of content strategy and global partnerships Alden Budill told TheWrap in the spring that the network owns the rights to distribute over 30,000 episodes of anime content, more than any of its close competitors (including Funimation).
While Crunchyroll got its start licensing existing content, it’s also branching out to create original games and shows. The company started its gaming division in 2017 to develop mobile and web games based on televised anime, and launched its first foray into original television in January and launched eight shows this year, including “Tower of God,” which came out in April.
Crunchyroll was launched in 2006 and acquired by Peter Chernin’s Otter Media brand in 2013 — and AT&T took full ownership of Crunchyroll two years ago. At the time of the Otter Media acquisition, Crunchyroll was valued at an estimated $100 million.