Sony acquires Crunchyroll, leaving anime fans with unanswered questions

Anime fans

AT&T has officially sold Crunchyroll to Sony, bringing two of the world’s biggest anime streaming competitors in Sony’s hands.

For the increasingly growing anime fan base, this is game-changing news.

In an attempt to close the company’s $170 million debt, the telco sold its largest anime streaming platform for a sum amounting to $1.175 billion.

The deal was closed on Monday by Funimation Global Group, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment (Japan).

Now, Crunchyroll will join Funimation, Sony’s current anime streaming property. The aim of buying another anime streaming service is to unify subscription experiences as soon as possible, Tony Vinciquerra, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in a statement on Monday.

“With the addition of Crunchyroll, we have an unprecedented opportunity to serve anime fans like never before and deliver the anime experience across any platform they choose from theatrical, events, home entertainment, games, streaming, linear TV, everywhere and every way fans want to experience their anime,” Vinciquerra added.

Crunchyroll’s acquisition was announced back in December of last year but was put on hold due to regulatory approval. Currently, the two services remain separate, as it is unclear how Sony will combine both streaming giants into one to deliver an encapsulated library.

“We are very excited to welcome Crunchyroll to the Sony Group,” Kenichiro Yoshida, chairman, president, and CEO of Sony Group, said in a statement. “Anime is a rapidly growing medium that enthralls and inspires emotion among audiences around the globe. The alignment of Crunchyroll and Funimation will enable us to get even closer to the creators and fans who are the heart of the anime community.”

Founded in 2016, Crunchyroll currently boasts 5 million paying subscribers combined with 120 million registered users. The streaming service license and distributes popular anime such as Naruto and One Piece, as well as manga, Japanese comics which are the basis of these well-loved shows.

Funimation, which is very similar to Crunchyroll, hasn’t disclosed the number of subscribers it has; however, it currently enjoys the license to distribute hit shows like Dragonball Z and Attack on Titan.

It remains unclear how Sony will leverage this acquisition into its offering, as it aims to transform anime content reaching the west. Despite assurances, anime fans subscribed to both platforms have voiced their concerns on social media.

On the other hand, English-speaking anime lovers worry whether those who translate these shows for western audiences will keep their positions.

The notion of paying for one anime streaming service is surely an attractive deal. However, a myriad of questions loom, as this acquisition might translate into a monopoly.