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Funimation Buys Crunchyroll - So, What Now?

A major bombshell has hit the anime streaming business, but one that has been rumoured for some time. It's been wildly known that AT&T (part of Warner Media) was looking for a buyer for the anime streaming service Crunchyroll, and had held talks with several interested parties. One of the rumoured buyers was Sony, who are already in the business through owning Funimation, Animax,  Europe's Wakinim and Australia and New Zealand's Anime Lab. The news resulted in furrowed brows among fans concerned that this would give them a 'monopoly' (despite the existence of HiDive).

It has now been announced that Funimation is acquiring Crunchyroll in a deal worth $1.117 Billion. Crunchyroll is the largest anime focussed streaming service in the world with a paying subscriber base of over 3 million, it reaches many more through its ad-supported service with 90 million registered users. Funimation is the United State's biggest anime distributor, and its streaming service Funimation Now is Crunchyroll's biggest competitor in the US and several other countries.

What does that mean for the business and for anime fans? For anyone who is concerned- they are extremely unlikely to pay such a hefty price tag just to close Crunchy down. Prior to Funimation itself being acquired by Sony, Funimation and Crunchyroll entered a strategic pact. During the so-called FuniRoll years, the two shared licences and libraries, with subtitled content migrating to Crunchyroll and Funimation Now becoming the home of English dubbed content. After the end of the deal, the two started competing for licences once again, but the buy-out will put an end to that.  We could potentially see a return to the days of the pact, with the subtitled and dubbed content differentiating the two, which would continue to operate as separate entities. 

Alternatively, we could see some kind of a merger between the two. If anything, Funimation Now could be the one to go. Crunchyroll has the much larger userbase, and many would argue the more stable platform (although they both have their issues). Funimation could roll over subscribers and content to Crunchyroll, giving subscribers to either platform access to a huge library of both subtitled and dubbed anime. It would also end the days of having to have subs to both if you want to see all the content.

Crunchyroll is available in many countries that Funimation's streaming service currently isn't, so Funi will also gain an instant foothold in many more markets. Funimation has previously stated their ambition to expand internationally, which is probably what made this deal so attractive.

Competition helps a healthy market thrive, so that can be seen as a negative to come out of this. Japanese licensors may also be less than thrilled, as the competition for titles helped drive prices up. Competition does still exist in the form of (the much smaller) Hi-Dive, but the new FuniRoll v2.0's biggest competition will be from mainstream companies such as Netflix and Amazon.

There are many other questions too. Will this be the end of Crunchyroll content on HBO Max and VRV? What about Crunchyroll's Originals program? Will this mean more Crunchyroll content can get physical releases?

Whatever happens, this is going to lead to a big shakeup of the anime streaming landscape. Hopefully, this can happen without anyone losing their job.