Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), the parent company of the content provider Funimation Global Group, has announced on Thursday (Philippine time) that they will acquire Crunchyroll from AT&T.
The purchase was valued at US$1.175 billion in cash, subject to approval from government anti-trust regulators, as well as “customary working capital and other adjustments”.
It is still unclear at the moment on how will Sony combine the existing operations of Funimation and Crunchyroll, whether if they plan to have a tier-pricing system or both services will be merged into a unified service.
“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 Tony Goncalves, Chief Revenue Officer of AT&T’s WarnerMedia division.
Goncalves explains that the Crunchyroll team had done an “extraordinary job” not just growing the brand, but also the community of passionate anime fans.
“Crunchyroll’s success is a direct result of the company’s culture and commitment to their fans,” Goncalves added.
“We are proud to bring Crunchyroll into the Sony family,” said Tony Vinciquerra, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Vinciquerra explains that Funimation, together with its joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment Japan’s Aniplex, have a “deep understanding” of the anime scene and “well-positioned” to bring outstanding content to a global audience.
“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,” Vinciquerra said.
Funimation Global Group is a joint venture between Sony Pictures Television (SPT) and Aniplex division of Sony Music Entertainment Japan (SMEJ), which started as a North American anime licensor founded by Gen Fukunaga in 1994.
The anime licensor was acquired by SPT in 2017, and then consolidated its international streaming businesses with Aniplex in 2019 to form Funimation Global Group, which also includes AnimeLab in Australia and Wakanim in Europe.
The Japanese entertainment channels ANIMAX Asia and GEM TV, and its sister channels, were previously part of SPT, under Sony Pictures Entertainment Asia, but was sold earlier this year to KC Global Media, which is a media company owned by former SPT executives Andy Kaplan and George Chien. The acquisition was finalized last May.
Crunchyroll was launched in 2006 as a video uploading and streaming service, specializing on East Asian content and “fansubbed” Japanese anime videos, but eventually removed all copyright-infringing content in 2009 after Japanese broadcaster TV Tokyo acquired shares of the company.
The Chernin Group, the holding company of former News Corporation executive Peter Chernin, has acquired controlling interest of the company in 2013. The company then formed a joint venture in 2014 with American telecommunications giant AT&T to form Otter Media, which then launched Ellation that served as the parent company of Crunchyroll and VRV.
AT&T bought the remaining stakes of The Chernin Group into Otter Media in 2018 and was folded into WarnerMedia, which is the new name of TimeWarner after it was officially acquired by the now-American media conglomerate.
Last year, Crunchyroll and its parent company became a part of Warner Bros. as a part of WarnerMedia’s reorganization, joining Cartoon Network and Adult Swim into one division.
Industry website Variety reported last August that WarnerMedia is looking to offload the anime streaming service for at least US$1 Billion to pay some of its debt load.
Funimation and Crunchyroll previously joined together for a content-sharing partnership in 2016, as well as Crunchyroll’s anime titles being released on home video through Funimation’s home video distribution network.
The first partnership ended after Sony Pictures Television acquired Funimation in 2018.