Crunchyroll And Funimation Execs Speak About Anime's Top Powers Combined

The FUNimation "Cowboy Bebop" exclusive edition.
The FUNimation "Cowboy Bebop" exclusive edition. Funimation

The news that Crunchyroll and Funimation are joining forces to share titles across streaming, home video and electronic sell-through is some of the biggest news to hit the anime industry lately and maybe ever. We spoke with Kun Gao, founder and general manager of Crunchyroll, and Mike DuBois, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Funimation, to gain more insight into how this historic partnership will shake up the anime landscape.

To DuBois, the partnership was a natural fit from the start. “From our perspective - we obviously have known Kun and the Crunchyroll team for some time - but for us, it was a partnership that was really formed out of a shared purpose,” said DuBois. “We found that we had a lot in common around trying to get fans the best experience possible and growing the fandom for anime. So we felt like two sides of the same coin… This coming together to make a great fan experience was kind of a natural outcome.”

According to Kun, this collaboration came about as an organic extension of conversations about licensing some of Funimation’s content. “We said, well what if we made the partnership even broader and talked about even more content, even more ways to collaborate, all in service of making a better fan experience. And then we realized there was something even more interesting if we keep growing the partnership.”

That means that the upcoming fall anime season, starting in October, will be the first testing ground for Funimation and Crunchyroll’s new partnership. “From our perspective, what we feel is this partnership allows both companies to do what they’re really known for,” said DuBois.

So Funimation will become a destination for anime dubs, while Crunchyroll will stake its claim on subs. “We’re pooling together our collective rights and we’re figuring out where it makes the most sense to deliver the best fan experience,” said Gao. “For Crunchyroll, that’s the simulcast, so subtitled content, which means Crunchyroll will be delivering both historically the Crunchyroll titles and the Funimation titles, but of course, subtitled. And then, for Funimation, it would be the broadcast dubs, the simuldubs if you will, of all the shows that we collectively have access to.”

With Crunchyroll on Team Sub and Funimation on Team Dub, the experience of watching all the latest anime season after season should be more streamlined. Crunchyroll and Funimation’s clearly delineated territories mean fans will no longer have to investigate to find out what shows will air where. Shows will air on both sites now, and your choice of platform simply depends on your viewing preference of sub versus dub.

“One of the things we’ve found in talking to fans, one of their frustration points was trying to figure out who had what show, where do I go, and we really had to simplify the discovery process so that shows we share are gonna be on both sites,” said DuBois. “We feel like we simplified the process of finding anime.”

Furthermore, both sites are racing to share their backlogs as quickly as contracts allow. “In our catalog, there’s titles that we have exclusive distribution partnership with, that those contracts are still in place, but over time, you’ll see those titles move over to the CR site. We’re sharing as many titles as we can as fast as we can,” said Dubois.

Funimation’s titles are already subtitled, so Crunchyroll can post them immediately; however, it will take a bit more time before Crunchyroll’s own backlog can get Funimation’s dub treatment.

“We still have to go through that dubbing process to localize them, get the actors cast, and get the shows we’re getting from them ready to be English-dubbed, so as fast as we can get those materials and get them dubbed, you’ll see us putting them up in the weeks to come,” DuBois promised.

Will the Funimation and Crunchyroll partnership extend to shared investment in anime production committees or co-negotiating licensing? It’s a little early to tell. Gao explained, “Collectively, we’re going to continue to try to get as much content for fans to watch. Whether that comes in the form of licensing, or us co-producing, or co-financing, we have to figure out what the best way is to do that … Details TBD.”

But the benefits of the Crunchyroll and Funimation partnership go a lot further than ease of viewing. “It expands our distribution [and] it expands the ways that content partners who work with us will be able to make more money off of both our platforms,” said Gao. With a core audience more deeply engaged their revenues should increase, and royalty payouts to the partners who help finance anime should increase, too.

Of course, the benefits to fans don’t stop at simulcasts and broadcast dubs. DuBois said, “I think the experience for fans not just in the streaming window but throughout the various distribution streams is much more favorable with this partnership, so now it won’t just be the shows that we have going to market home video, now we’ll be partnering with Crunchyroll to distribute and dub shows that they have gotten.” That means Crunchyroll’s titles will get the Funimation Blu-ray, DVD and download experience, too.

The reaction from licensors, fans and even employees has been profoundly positive. “What we found, even though we’ve been fierce competitors for a lot of years, we found that we had more in common than we do differences,” said DuBois. “Watching that commonality come to life to serve fans has been really great to watch.”

Gao added, “I think fans are very clearly hearing our message that this is an upgrade in terms of their experience whether its subs or dubs or both, as well as the different ways they can access the content beyond the digital and the subscription, and so fans are generally very excited. I think we’re very much excited to continue growing the partnership.”

Next up for both companies: October licensing and content season. It’s all a very far cry from dubious fansub VHS copies ordered off random Geocities websites. So get ready for a whole lot of anime - anywhere and any way you’d like to watch it.

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