Sony's Funimation Buys Crunchyroll From AT&T For $1.2 Billion In A Joining Of Anime Superpowers

This news may just take the top spot for Top 10 Anime Crossovers: Sony's anime distribution company Funimation has bought the anime streaming service Crunchyroll from AT&T for a whopping $1.2 billion, merging the two anime superpowers together in a deal that could bring massive change to the industry.

Sony Pictures Entertainment announced that AT&T has agreed to sell its popular anime streaming service, Crunchyroll, to Funimation Global Group, the joint venture between Sony Pictures and Sony Music's subsidiary, Aniplex Inc.

WarnerMedia Chief Revenue Officer Tony Goncalves said of the acquisition:

"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," "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."

The deal came out to a whopping $1.175 billion, an incredible amount for any streaming service. But Crunchyroll isn't just any streaming platform — it serves roughly 90 million registered users and 3 million subscribers across more than 200 countries and territories, offering simulcast anime series (that is, subtitled anime right when it broadcasts in Japan), as well as mobile games, manga, events merchandise, and more. It began its life as a little illegal streaming website (I was there way back when as a forum moderator) and grew to be this company worth billions and that is a major player in the huge anime market. It's a little astonishing that AT&T would want to let go of such a valuable asset, especially when most major streaming platforms (i.e. Netflix) are trying to break into the anime market. But it feels fitting, to a degree, that Crunchyroll and Funimation will be under the same roof as the two companies have often overlapped with their distribution — Crunchyroll for subtitled anime, Funimation for dubbed.

Crunchyroll General Manager Joanne Waage said in a statement:

"We are excited to embark on this new journey. Crunchyroll has built a world-class brand with a passionate fan-base of over 3M subscribers, 50M social followers and 90M registered users. These amazing fans have helped to propel anime into a global phenomenon," said Joanne Waage, general manager of Crunchyroll. "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."

Added Tony Vinciquerra, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, "We are proud to bring Crunchyroll into the Sony family. 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. 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."

So what could this mean for the anime industry at large? It's difficult to say, but it could mean an increase in original anime titles from other streaming services as the streaming wars become more competitive, as Polygon suggests. Or it could mean even fewer original titles from Crunchyroll, as Crunchyroll and Funimation join their resources. Regardless, this seems like a real loss mostly for WarnerMedia, which lets go of its biggest in into the anime market with its selling of Crunchyroll.