Sony Corp. is reportedly in talks to acquire anime streaming service Crunchyroll from ATT&T. The deal is said to be worth more than $957 million (or 100 billion yen), and would give Sony access to Crunchyroll's 70 million subscriber base, while presumably giving Crunchyroll a much bigger and more sophisticated global digital platform to work from. Sony is also said to be interested in using Crunchyroll as a unique new distribution lane for the studios' content, from films to music. Sony already acquired major animation distributor Funimation Productions in 2017 for $143 million, in what is a clear goal of taking a bigger share of the Japanese entertainment market.
In fact, the report in Reuters notes that Sony's entertainment business Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida is looking to establish reliable revenue streams in the industry, that don't have the kind of volatility of hardware sales cycles. 2020 couldn't be a more appropriate year to understand the wisdom in that approach: Sony has been locked in a mad dash of launching its new Playstation 5 console in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, while consumers have turned to streaming entertainment in greater numbers than ever before while spending exponentially more time at home.
Anime, manga, (and really Asian culture entertainment as a whole) has been an increasingly profitable (and sought-after) revenue lane in the last five years. For proof, look no further than streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max quickly stacking up anime content as a major block of their respective content offerings. Sony has the distinction of being the sole major studio left without its own exclusive content streaming service; getting into Funimation and now Crunchyroll is an unexpectedly shrewd way to go about it.
Crunchyroll will be a featured content service on PS5 when it launches in November, which gives Sony even more advantage in acquiring the service, as the company can channel content that promotes Crunchyroll as a preferred service of the already-assured millions of PS5 customers Sony is about to get. The PlayStation 5 is set to release on November 12th in the US and November 19th globally, with the version containing a disc drive running $499 while the all-digital console will cost $399. Crunchyroll will be available on the console immediately when it launches in each region.
Crunchyroll, Inc. distributes, publishes, and licenses anime, manga, and dorama content to US audiences. In 2016 Crunchyroll partnered with Funimation until both companies were acquired by AT&T and Sony (respectively) in 2018.