Hey everyone, this is actually a big deal. As the title says, Crunchyroll, the streaming platform that we all know and love (well maybe not love, but we know about it) has been bought out by Funimation, and by extension, Sony. This is something that could change the face of the anime industry. Personally, I can’t say if that change will be good or bad, but it is worrying though. Let me explain why.
I suppose before we go into my fears and worries and whether they are justified, we should talk about the history of Crunchyroll. The company was founded back in 2006. Back then it would just upload whatever the hell it wanted which included a lot of illegal content they did not have a license to share. Think of them as being kind of like those shady Russian websites you watch anime on. Except these boys were all American with American investors. Oh yeah, while still distributing illegal copies of shows, American investment group Venrock decided to go ahead and give them some money.
Now Venrock is a company that started back in ‘69 (nice). It was founded by Laurance Rockefeller, as in grandson of John D. Rockefeller, the man who once ran a monopoly on oil. I don’t know Laurance Rockefeller, and I realize that I should not hold him responsible for the sins of his grandfather, but the entire affair leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
In any case, Crunchyroll moved past that stage to become an official source for anime. Then, in about 2013, a majority stake was bought by The Chernin Group (yes the “The” is capitalized, it’s part of the name for some reason). AT&T and Chernin then came together to create a joint venture called Otter Media, which invested even more into Crunchyroll. If it sounds like I’m skimming over that it’s because that doesn’t matter, because AT&T acquired all of Otter.
Now we come to yesterday’s big news, the acquisition of Crunchyroll by Funimation. Though that doesn’t really give you the full picture. As mentioned above, Otter was acquired by AT&T back in 2018. Essentially, AT&T owned Crunchyroll, as if they needed to own more of the modern media industry. But now they are selling to Funimation. Well not exactly. They are selling to Funimation’s parent company, Sony. You see, what the title of my article failed to disclose is the fact that this is not just a simple (as if anything involving 1.175 billion USD is simple) acquisition of one company by another. This is a major industry trade, one that has been a long time coming if sources are to be believed.
From what I hear AT&T has been attempting to sell Crunchyroll to multiple different corporations for an undisclosed amount of time. Currently I am looking into specifics and will provide further details as they come up. I suppose that none of that really matters though given that the deal is now closed with Sony. And yes, the 1.175 billion is an accurate estimate. Originally AT&T had asked for 1.5 billion, but Sony “balked at” that number. Sony apparently values the streaming service at less than $500 per subscriber. While you can’t put a price on a human life, I guess you can put a price on their attention.
Crunchyroll currently has about 3 million subscribers and 90 million registered users. Which is a lot of people. A lot of people who are now going to be tossed from one corporate hand to another. If you can’t tell by now, I’m not really a huge fan of AT&T or Sony. If you’ve read my previous articles I doubt that’s a huge surprise, seeing how I come off as not a huge fan of anything. The thing is, a lot of my writing is me messing about. I exaggerate my frustrations and hatred of things. Sure, I might not like them, but it’s not as bad as I make it look. This is different.
A big fear of mine is consolidation of media/resources. I can only imagine how I must sound, but please stay with me. I think this fear comes from middle school back when we learned about monopolies. Something about it all made me terrified. Maybe it was because it all clicked, and that stupid board game was no longer just a source of frustration. That board game now represented something that had actually happened. I’m jumping around a bit here but my point is that I didn’t like the concept of monopolies. That eventually evolved into me not liking anything that owned a lot of stuff. There’s no rationale behind it, it’s just how my brain works. I won’t judge you for how you feel.
What I’m trying to say is that Sony owns a lot of stuff. They currently own A-1 Pictures, CloverWorks, and now Crunchyroll, through Aniplex. They have a pretty big hold on the market. This represents a large transfer of power. Now don’t get me wrong, this may come around and benefit us as viewers. It’s easy to see how that could happen. I’m more worried about how the industry will change though. I want to speculate and ask questions, but I fear that they will simply cause, for lack of a better term, fear. Until I have my answers I will leave it at that. I do not wish to cause unneeded panic.
Before I wrap things up, I want to address a few more things. These are mostly things I forgot or didn’t have a good place for, but felt were important nonetheless. Funimation does not currently have a content sharing deal with Crunchyroll, having ended their previous one in November of 2018. This acquisition may represent a renewal of Funimation content on Crunchyroll.
In addition to the previously mentioned studios/content providers, Sony also owned Wakanim and Madman Anime Group. However both were merged with Funimation back in September 2019. Crunchyroll acquired a majority ownership of Viz Media Europe in December 2019. This includes French Distributor KAZÈ, after its integration into Viz Media in 2009. You see what I’m getting at.
Both Crunchyroll and Funimation have stated that that they will continue to operate separately until the deal is finalized.
Currently I am looking to contact a representative from AT&T for more information about the deal. While Crunchyroll and Funimation aren’t answering questions, AT&T might be a bit more willing. I have yet to hear back (though those emails were sent today, and I’m sure they are swamped with questions) but expect this article to be updated as new information comes out. If the information is big enough then there may just be a new article altogether. I’ll link it at the bottom here should that happen.
Houston based Sequential Art student who is stuck in the past. Has a habit of going off topic. Loves Berserk, Video Games, and literally nothing else.