AT&T has officially divested Crunchyroll, closing the sale of the anime business to Sony’s Funimation group — bringing together two erstwhile competitors under the Sony umbrella.
The telco, looking for every opportunity to pay down its debt, sold Crunchyroll for $1.175 billion in cash paid at closing by Funimation Global Group, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) subsidiary Aniplex.
Sony’s goal is to “create a unified anime subscription experience as soon as possible,” Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures, said in announcing the close of the deal 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.”
The agreement was first announced in December 2020 and had been pending regulatory approval. Details of how Sony will combine Crunchyroll and Funimation remain unclear, but for now the two services will remain separate.
Crunchyroll’s streaming service has more 5 million paying subscribers worldwide and 120 million registered users in 200-plus countries. Funimation hasn’t disclosed how many subscribers or users it has. The closing of Funimation’s acquisition of Crunchyroll will let both services “broaden distribution for their content partners and expand fan-centric offerings for consumers,” AT&T and Sony said in an announcement.
Sony Pictures Television bought a controlling stake in Funimation in 2017 for $143 million. In 2019, Funimation founder Gen Fukunaga stepped out of day-to-day management. Fukunaga had founded Funimation in 1994 after a career in IT and consulting.
“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 2006, Crunchyroll had become part of WarnerMedia after AT&T bought out Chernin Group’s majority stake in Otter in 2018. More broadly, AT&T has been dismantling its previous entertainment strategy: It completed the spinoff of DirecTV and its other U.S. pay-TV operations last week. And it’s currently in the process of divesting WarnerMedia to combine it with Discovery, a deal expected to close in mid-2022.