AT&T is selling anime-focused streaming service Crunchyroll to Sony for nearly $1.2bn. It will now be part of Sony’s Funimation, Crunchyroll’s major competitor in the anime streaming space, although it’s unclear whether the brands will be fully merged or continue to operate separately.
Crunchyroll, which was previously part of WarnerMedia’s Otter Media division, boasts 3 million subscribers and more than 90 million registered users.
AT&T has been looking for ways to reduce debt, understood to be more than $180bn, and is also reportedly trying to sell satellite TV service DirecTV. WarnerMedia, under new CEO Jason Kilar, is focusing on its HBO Max streaming service and started looking for buyers for Crunchyroll earlier this year.
“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 WarnerMedia chief revenue officer Tony Goncalves.
“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.”
Sony chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra said: “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.
Founded in 2006, Crunchyroll was acquired by The Chernin Group is 2013, which later folded it into its Otter Media joint venture with AT&T. When AT&T acquired full control of Otter Media in 2018, it absorbed Crunchyroll into WarnerMedia. The company is currently headed by general manager Joanne Waage.
Funimation was founded in 1994 by Japanese-American entrepreneur Gen Fukunaga, who currently holds the post of president with former Crunchyroll executive Colin Decker as CEO. Sony acquired the streamer in 2017 and set it up as a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music’s Aniplex division.
Crunchyroll and Funimation signed a partnership to share titles across streaming, home video and electronic sell-through (EST) in 2016, but the two streamers ended the relationship in 2018.