Crunchyroll (Courtesy of Otter Media)
Funimation, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment (Japan)’s Aniplex, has been a major rival to Crunchyroll in the global market for Japanese anime fandom. AT&T, looking to reduce its debt load, has been looking for a buyer for Crunchyroll for several months. Variety previously reported that AT&T’s WarnerMedia was looking to sell the unit for at least $1 billion.
Crunchyroll touts more than 3 million subscription VOD subscribers and some 90 million registered users across more than 200 countries and territories. It offers ad-supported VOD, mobile games, manga, events merchandise and distribution. Crunchyroll says it has more than 1,000 titles and over 30,000 episodes, which it claims represents the world’s largest anime library.
In the U.S., Crunchyroll’s ad-free subscription service is $7.99 per month and includes simulcasts of Japanese anime programs as soon as one hour after they air in the country.
Funimation’s U.S. streaming subscription plans start at $5.99 per month. Funimation distributes over 700 anime series, representing more than 13,000 hours of content, available in 49 countries. Sony, which bought Funimation in 2017 in a deal valuing the company at $150 million, hasn’t disclosed number of subscribers or users for the service.
What’s unclear for now is how Sony will combine Crunchyroll and Funimation — and whether the prices for either of their services will go up or potentially be merged into a unified offering.
“We are proud to bring Crunchyroll into the Sony family,” Tony Vinciquerra, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in announcing the deal. “Together with Crunchyroll, we will create the best possible experience for fans and greater opportunity for creators, producers and publishers in Japan and elsewhere.”
WarnerMedia chief revenue officer Tony Goncalves commented, “Crunchyroll’s success is a direct result of the company’s culture and commitment to their fans. By combining with Funimation, they will continue to nurture a global community and bring more anime to more people.”
Funimation was founded in 1994 by Gen Fukunaga, after a career in IT and consulting. He exited the role of GM last year. Funimation is currently headed by CEO Colin Decker — who, among past gigs, had previously served as COO at Crunchyroll.
Founded in 2006, Crunchyroll is currently headed by general manager Joanne Waage. She took over for co-founder and former GM Kun Gao in late 2018.
“We are excited to embark on this new journey,” Waage said in a statement. “Combining the strength of the Crunchyroll brand and the expertise of our global team with Funimation is an exciting prospect and a win for the incredible art form of anime.”
Several years ago, Funimation and Crunchyroll previously had a deal to cross-license content (under which Crunchyroll had offered subtitled versions and Funimation provided dubbed versions of the same shows). But Sony ended that deal in 2018.
Crunchyroll has been housed within WarnerMedia’s Otter Media division, after AT&T bought out Chernin Group’s majority stake in Otter in 2018. Peter Chernin’s company had acquired a majority stake in Crunchyroll for $75 million in 2013.
Variety's Todd Spangler contributed to this post.