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AT&T is selling anime-focused streamer Crunchyroll to Sony for nearly $1.2 billion as part of its ongoing effort to streamline its assets.
Crunchyroll, which was previously part of WarnerMedia’s Otter Media segment, will now be part of Funimation, the joint venture between Sony Pictures and Sony Music’s Aniplex. The deal will give Funimation control over a direct-to-consumer brand with 3 million subscribers and over 90 million registered users.
“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 WarnerMedia chief revenue officer Tony Goncalves. “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.”
Founded in 2006, Crunchyroll was early to the streaming game, focusing on a niche audience of anime lovers instead of trying to offer something for everyone. The Chernin Group acquired a controlling interest in the business in 2013 and later wrapped it into its Otter Media joint venture with AT&T, which was focused on building over-the-top businesses. AT&T acquired full control of Otter Media in 2018 and the group’s assets were absorbed into WarnerMedia.
WarnerMedia, under the leadership of newly appointed CEO Jason Kilar, has been looking to streamline its businesses and began shopping a Crunchyroll sale over the summer. Of late, the company has been focused on growing its more comprehensive HBO Max streamer, which offers programming from across its portfolio of assets. AT&T, meanwhile, has been looking for ways to pay down its debt, which has ballooned to more than $180 billion. The company is also reported to be fielding offers for satellite TV service DirecTV.
Crunchyroll had teamed up with Japanese anime distributor Funimation in the past.
Sony’s Funimation, which specializes in releasing anime online in the U.S. and internationally, was founded 25 years ago by Japan-born Gen Fukunaga. He stepped down as CEO last year to take on the chairman role. Funimation, led by general manager Colin Decker, a former executive at Crunchyroll, in September 2019 combined with Aniplex’s anime streaming businesses, Wakanim, and Madman Anime Group to consolidate the FunimationNow streaming platform, which has been available in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Funimation earlier this year said its catalog encompasses around 600 titles and 10,000 hours of content.
“We are proud to bring Crunchyroll into the Sony family,” said Sony chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra. “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.”
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