Crunchyroll Funimation sale Crunchyroll Funimation sale

After months of rumors, the news is out: Sony’s Funimation Global Group is set to acquire AT&T’s Crunchyroll.

The companies have agreed to a sale price of $1.175 billion — higher than the $975 million mooted in November, but lower than the $1.5 billion that the debt-laden AT&T reportedly sought to begin with. The price is subject to customary working capital and other adjustments, and will be paid in cash. The sale has not yet received regulatory approval.

The sale represents a major consolidation of global anime streaming and distribution. Crunchyroll has three million SVOD subscribers and 90 million registered users across 200 countries; in addition to streaming, it produces originals, publishes news, hosts a forum, organizes events, and more. Funimation streams a catalogue of over 700 series across 49 countries, and has distributed and marketed 6 of the top 20 anime films in the U.S.

Details of the acquisition are thin on the ground. It remains to be seen how Sony will merge the two platforms — which service(s) it will keep and under what name(s), what it will charge, and so on. A question mark also hangs over the curated collection of Crunchyroll titles currently available on AT&T’s HBO Max.

Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in a statement:

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.

The deal, however, will almost certainly hurt Japanese animation producers who now have less buyers for their work, which could lead to a drop in production budgets. Fans also aren’t so sure. Many are ambivalent about what consolidation could bring in the long term…

Sony and its anime subsidiary Aniplex have spent the last five years on an anime acquisition spree, snapping up France’s Wakanim, Australia’s Madman Anime, then Funimation itself (buying a 95% stake in the company for $143 million). Last year, all three were merged under the Funimation name.

The anime market in the U.S. is booming, fueled by considerable investment from streaming platforms. In recent years, generalist streamers — especially Netflix — have muscled into the market. The Association of Japanese Animations, a trade body representing Japan’s animation producers, recently calculated that the anime industry as a whole grew to a record 2.5112 trillion yen (around USD$24.08 billion) in 2019.