On Wednesday, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. announced that AT&T and WarnerMedia agreed to sell Crunchyroll to Funimation. Though there had been rumblings of the acquisition for a few weeks, it wasn’t clear just how the deal would go down or if it would at all. The purchase price for the transaction was estimated by Sony to be $1.175 billion.
At first glance, Sony’s acquisition of Crunchyroll from AT&T might put them in a better position to compete with Netflix, but the move actually grows their influence over Japan’s anime industry. By adding Crunchyroll’s 70 million free members and 3 million paid subscribers to their portfolio of anime streaming and production companies, the company intends to reap the rewards of anime’s growth overseas, which in both 2017 and 2018 grew to nearly half of the industry’s over ¥2.1 trillion (about $19 billion) total revenue.
Although Sony’s move into anime streaming might seem sudden, the company has been involved in anime production for decades. In 1995, Sony Music Entertainment Japan (SMEJ) established Aniplex, a subsidiary created for managing anime and music productions. In 2005, Aniplex started its own animation studio, A-1 Pictures, which would go on to animate shows like Kaguya-sama: Love is War and Sword Art Online.