Sony Pictures Entertainment and AT&T announced on Monday that Sony‘s Funimation Global Group has completed its acquistion of Crunchyroll from AT&T. The purchase price was US$1.175 billion, and the proceeds were paid in cash at closing.
AT&T expects to use the proceeds from this transaction to help support its debt reduction efforts.
The announcement did not reveal how or if the individual streaming platforms would merge or plans for subscription costs for users. Crunchyroll‘s own announcement reads, “The two brands you know and love will be working together, and we believe this is a great thing for fans and the industry, alike! Both teams are knowledgeable, passionate, and have been committed to the anime community for decades. We couldn’t ask for better partners.
We know you may have questions! Today we begin the work of bringing two awesome teams together to bring you more of what you love. Thank you for your trust and support!”
Funimation‘s blog also updated with the news but is currently unreachable at the time of this writing.
Kenichiro Yoshida, chairman, president and CEO of Sony Group Corporation commented on the merger, “We are very excited to welcome Crunchyroll to the Sony Group. 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. We look forward to delivering even more outstanding entertainment that fills the world with emotion through anime.”
Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra said, “Crunchyroll adds tremendous value to Sony‘s existing anime businesses, including Funimation and our terrific partners at Aniplex and Sony Music Entertainment Japan. 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. Our goal is to create a unified anime subscription experience as soon as possible.”
Crunchyroll and Funimation first announced the acquisition in December 2020 with a purchase price of US$1.175 billion. The technology website The Information reported in August 2020 that AT&T offered Crunchyroll to Sony for US$1.5 billion and that Sony reported “balked at” the price, which effectively values the streaming service at US$500 per subscriber. Entertainment news source Variety reported that AT&T was shopping the company to multiple potential buyers aside from Sony Pictures Entertainment at that time. Nikkei Asia later reported that October that Sony was in final negotiations for the Crunchyroll acquisition. At that time, the newspaper reported that Sony “could end up spending more than 100 billion yen ($957 million).”
Crunchyroll launched in 2006 as a streaming service offering anime titles without authorization. The website secured US$4.05 million in its first-round funding from Venrock and began licensing titles for streaming in 2008.
The Chernin Group acquired a majority stake in Crunchyroll in December 2013. The Chernin Group and AT&T formed the joint venture Otter Media in 2014, and Otter Media invested another US$22 million in Crunchyroll‘s parent company Ellation in November 2015. AT&T then announced in August 2018 that it acquired all of Otter Media.
Crunchyroll and Viz Media Europe closed the deal for Crunchyroll to become the majority owner of Viz Media Europe Group last December. The companies announced the agreement in September 2019. Viz Media Europe SAS (Société par Actions Simplifiées or simplified joint-stock company) announced in April 2020 that it changed its name to Crunchyroll SAS. Since the December 2019 deal of Crunchyroll‘s majority ownership of Viz Media Europe, Crunchyroll has also owned French anime distributor KAZÉ (the company was integrated with Viz Media Europe in 2009).
Sony History with Anime Streaming Services
Sony Pictures Television and Aniplex consolidated three Sony-owned anime acquisition and distribution companies — Funimation based in the United States, Wakanim based in France, and Madman Anime Group based in Australia — into one joint venture in September 2019. Sony Pictures Television Networks acquired a majority stake in Funimation for US$143 million in 2017. Funimation ended its content-sharing partnership with Crunchyroll in November 2018, and then signed a first-look streaming deal with Hulu in December 2018. Australian and New Zealand streaming service AnimeLab rebranded into Funimation on June 17.
Source: Press release