Netflix, watch out. In an all-cash transaction estimated at $1.175 billion, Sony has revealed it is buying AT&T’s animation group Crunchyroll.
Under the deal, as the business looks to scale up its content delivery and fan base in the anime section of the streaming arena, Crunchyroll will come under Sony’s Funimation umbrella – a joint partnership between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment’s subsidiary Aniplex.
“We are proud to bring Crunchyroll into the Sony family,” Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in a statement. “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.
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Vinciquerra said Sony is expected to create the best possible experience together with Crunchyroll 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,” he said.
Crunchyroll is a direct-to-consumer online anime service belonging to the WarnerMedia brand of AT&T.
The acquisition would allow Sony access to more than 3 million video-on-demand viewers as it looks to contend in the anime division of the entertainment distribution wars with heavyweight giant Netflix.
The paying subscription base has become a rising portion of the streaming division of Crunchyroll, which now has 90 million registered users in over 200 countries and territories. There are 1 million paid subscribers to Funimation, Reuters reported.
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As of Sept. 30, Netflix has nearly 195 million paying subscribers and a broad variety of anime content, including “Naruto,” “Hunter X Hunter,” One Piece,” “The Seven Deadly Sins,” and “Haikyu!! ”
In Japan and Korea, the streaming company has also recently concluded four agreements with anime creators: NAZ, Science SARU, MAPPA, and Studio Mir. Deadline confirmed that Netflix said its mission is to create the best content for the global anime community.”
One of the biggest sets of licensed anime is owned by Crunchyroll, which launched in 2006. It also operates online subscription facilities for the Anime Digital Network and Anime on Demand, which are localized into several languages.
It has released and sold six of the top 20 anime films in the U.S., Funimation said.
Goncalves added, “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.”