Big news from the world of anime: WarnerMedia’s Crunchyroll, the leading streaming service devoted to the super popular animation genre, is getting a new owner. Sony-owned Filmation will pay nearly $1.2 billion to acquire the direct-to-consumer platform, which currently boasts more than 3 million paid subscribers and has over 90 million registered users around the world for its various ad-supported services. While Crunchyroll has been successful, WarnerMedia parent AT&T has been looking to shed a number of business units it doesn’t feel are part of its core mission (i.e., HBO Max.)
Over the last two years, for example, WarnerMedia has shut down stand-alone streaming platforms such as FilmStruck and DC Universe, preferring instead to put programming from those services on HBO Max in order to boost subscriptions for the mothership. AT&T, meanwhile, is currently exploring selling off control of satellite service DirecTV, which has been bleeding subscribers since the phone company took control (and as the linear TV business collapses.) Sony, meanwhile, has been in the anime business for decades, investing in Funimation a few years ago. “Through Funimation and our terrific partners at Aniplex and Sony Music Entertainment Japan, we have a deep understanding of this global art form and are well-positioned to deliver outstanding content to audiences around the world,” said Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. “Together with Crunchyroll, we will create the best possible experience for fans and greater opportunity for creators, producers, and publishers in Japan and elsewhere.”
There is one big open question about the AT&T-Sony deal for Crunchyroll: What happens to the limited number of Crunchyroll titles currently streaming on HBO Max? The brand has its own dedicated portal on the streamer, right next to Adult Swim and Turner Classic Movies. A press release announcing the sale made no mention of whether or not Max would continue to offer what it has described as a “curated collection” of Crunchyroll content once Sony takes control. In theory, it is possible Sony and WarnerMedia would keep the titles on Max, since Max does have content not owned by WarnerMedia (most notably, the ViacomCBS-owned South Park.) Only 20 to 30 Crunchyroll titles live on Max, out of the thousands of hours on the stand-alone service, so there’s little chance a continued presence on Max would hurt sign-ups for the soon-to-be Sony-owned streamer. On the other hand, WarnerMedia could decide there’s no reason to continue to promote a competitor, particularly as WarnerMedia already makes anime programming through its other brands, including Adult Swim.