Sony Focusing on "Leveraging IP," Taking Over Anime Distributor

Dragon Ball Z - H 2012

With 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' delivering the goods at the box office, Sony Corp. CFO Kenichiro Yoshida pointed to the potential of "hundreds of Marvel characters."

Sony Corp. management during its earnings press conference on Tuesday said it was focusing on "leveraging IP across the group" and, on the heels of the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming, noted there were "hundreds of Marvel characters."

The comments came after Sony Pictures Television Networks unveiled a deal to acquire a big majority stake in Funimation Productions, a U.S. distributor of Japanese anime. Sony will buy a 95 percent stake for $143 million in a deal valuing the entire company at approximately $150 million.

Funimation CEO Gen Fukunaga will retain a minority stake and remain head of the company he founded, while John Kuelbs will leave his role as chairman.

Funimation's catalog includes such titles as Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop, One Piece, My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan. The company also operates subscription streaming service FunimationNOW, which is available via Sony's PlayStation Store, iTunes Store, Google Play, Amazon Apps, Xbox Game Store and mobile devices. Funimation also sells merchandise and DVDs online.

"We have IP across Funimation, Aniplex, Animax and the PlayStation platform, the challenge is to connect them all organically," said CFO Kenichiro Yoshida during Sony's earnings announcement at its Tokyo headquarters. "CEO [Kaz] Hirai is taking stock of all the IP in the group and the PS4 will be at the center."

The acquisition of Funimation fits with Sony Pictures Television Networks’ Animax network that offers Japanese anime content and currently operates in 23 countries, including Japan.

“Around the world, Sony’s networks have been major players in the anime space for nearly two decades, and in more recent years we have rapidly increased our networks’ over-the-top and digital offerings to consumers," said Andy Kaplan, president, worldwide networks, Sony Pictures Television. "With the acquisition of Funimation, the combined IP of Animax, Kids Station and Funimation allows us to deliver the best anime to fans across all screens and platforms."

Added Fukunaga: "With Funimation’s long-established leadership position in anime and Sony’s direct access to the creative pipeline in Japan, it will be a great partnership to take Funimation to the next level."

Following the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Yoshida pointed out that Spidey spinoff Venom is set for release next year and that "there are hundreds of Marvel characters; we will be proactively leveraging such IP going forward." It wasn't immediately clear if the company could license more Marvel characters or develop projects out of its own characters Marvel-style.