Sony Acquires Funimation For $143 Million, Increasing Footprint In Anime

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Sony has acquired Funimation to the tune of $143 million. (c) Funimation

The world of legitimate anime streaming is small and insular, but all anime fans recognize two names that tower above the rest: Crunchyroll and Funimation. Crunchyroll specializes in subtitled anime while Funimation focuses on dubs, an informal distinction the two companies hammered out more formally by agreeing to share titles last year.

But in a time of anime streaming shake-ups, Sony has tossed fans a new curveball by acquiring Funimation to the tune of $143 million. Deadline reports that Sony now owns 95% of the streaming distributor. Founder and CEO Gen Fukunaga retains a minority stake and will remain in his position.

“With the acquisition of Funimation, the combined [intellectual property] of Animax, Kids Station and Funimation allows us to deliver the best anime to fans across all screens and platforms,” Andy Kaplan, president of worldwide networks for Sony Pictures Television, said in a statement.

Fukunaga added, “With Funimation’s long-established leadership position in anime and Sony’s direct access to the creative pipeline in Japan, it will be a great partnership to take Funimation to the next level.”

Funimation’s library is nothing to sneeze at, with over 450 brands, more than 10,000 hours of content and both dubbed and subbed anime across multiple channels. According to a spokesperson, Funimation generates over $100 million in annual sales and has grown over 10 percent a year since 2013. Funimation also boasts bustling theatrical and home video sales, a rarity in entertainment.

“Funimation has experienced annual double-digit revenue growth since 2013 for both our digital and physical collectible business, despite industry trends in physical disc sales moving in the opposite direction,” Mike DuBoise, Funimation’s chief operating officer, said in an interview. By comparison, video-disc sales in the U.S. saw a decline of almost 10 percent last year according to the Digital Entertainment Group, a trade organization backed by studios.

Recently, Amazon’s Anime Strike has entered the anime space as one of Amazon’s many channel offerings. While Anime Strike has scored a few notable exclusives like Scum’s Wish and Made in the Abyss, it requires viewers to subscribe to Amazon Prime ($99/annually) and then pay $4.99 a month ($59.88 a year) additional. That’s a lot of money, especially compared to other streaming services that offer anime.

By comparison, Crunchyroll is $6.95 a month for a premium membership, meaning an annual investment of $83.40 per year. (There’s also a Premium+ option for $11.95 a month, or $143.40 a year.) Funimation’s premium service is $5.99 a month, or $71.88 a year, with an annual plan option of $59.99 if you’d rather skip monthly payments and pay in full up front. Netflix is $119.88 a year if you do the $9.99 a month plan, while Hulu is $7.99 per month or $95.88 per year.

And now, a new player appears… kind of. There’s no news on any kind of rebranding nor any comments yet on whether or not Sony properties Animax (never heard of them) and Kids Station (who?) will be integrated into any of Funimation’s spaces. A giant company acquiring Funimation, especially after Hollywood anime flops like Ghost in the Shell or (shudder) Dragonball Evolution, makes fans wonder how committed Funimation will remain to “continuing to create compelling experiences for anime fans” instead of “maximizing shareholder value.”

Are you concerned about Sony’s acquisition of Funimation? Do you feel this is a positive step forward for Funimation and anime streaming? What about Sony’s ties to anime studios in Japan? Feel free to discuss Sony’s latest acquisition in our comments section below.

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