Funimation has closed a $1.175 billion deal to purchase fellow anime streaming service Crunchyroll – and aims to roll out a "unified anime subscription experience."
The news was announced in a joint press release (opens in new tab) between Sony Pictures and AT&T. Kenichiro Yoshida, Chairman, CEO of the Sony Group Corporation said: "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."
How that’ll happen (and whether we’ll see a price increase) is unclear for now. A statement from Sony Pictures CEO Tony Vinciquerra does make pointed reference, however, to a unified subscription service that will take hold "as soon as possible."
What does that mean for you? Hopefully, given the disparity in Crunchyroll and Funimation’s libraries, it all amounts to a more universal batch of movies and shows – free from region locks and licensing issues. More often than not, you need to divide your time (and money) between Crunchyroll and Funimation because of various agreements and restrictions. Whisper it, but that should be a thing of the past.
The billion-dollar deal also makes it obvious: anime is about to become bigger than ever. That’s thanks in no small part to Netflix’s recent moves towards becoming a major player in the medium. Not only has it snapped up the streaming rights to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Stone Ocean, its purchase of the Neon Genesis Evangelion library (among others) and its move towards original programming, such as Castlevania, has made serious waves in the industry.
The Crunchyroll and Funimation partnership will surely throw everything at making sure Netflix doesn’t rule the roost. Ideally, that means making out-of-print series more readily available, as well as providing translations for rarer and more niche Japanese productions.
Will it ultimately be a good thing? Only time will tell – but your anime backlog is about to get a whole lot bigger.
For more from the medium, check out one of 2021’s biggest upcoming shows: here’s everything we know about Demon Slayer season 2.