Funimation, Don't Let Hollywood Studios Like Universal And Sony Buy You Out

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

In chilling news for anime fans who are by this point allergic to the words “Hollywood” and “anime” in the same sentence, studios like Universal and Sony are eyeing Funimation. And they’ve got hungry eyes, folks.

Understandably so: Funimation’s growing theatrical and home video business is picking up briskly as Hollywood Blu-ray and DVD sales fall by the wayside.

“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.

According to a Bloomberg report, both Comcast’s Universal film division and Sony Pictures have considered bidding for Funimation, though matters have not progressed further. Both companies already do business with Funimation: Universal has a multiyear deal to distribute Funimation’s DVDs, and a separate Sony business unit partners with Funimation’s streaming business.

But doing business is quite separate from buying the business, and that’s where things get dicey. Hollywood may well be interested in exploiting the wallets of fresh material with an existing and highly loyal fanbase, and they’re not alone in that, as Amazon’s moneygrubbing Amazon Strike channel demonstrates.

Recent flop Ghost in the Shell, the widely-panned Dragonball Evolution, Netflix’s controversial live-action Death Note and more all demonstrate how difficult it appears to be for Western studios to grasp the magic of these iconic anime franchises. Not that that’s stopping anyone.

“In an era where the Internet knows no bounds, we are proud to deliver high-quality original anime to fans all over the world, at the exact same time, no matter where they live, whether it be Japan, France, Mexico, the U.S. and beyond,” Netflix’s original content acquisition vice president, Erik Barmack, said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last year, spotlighting the company’s interest in pursuing that coveted anime niche.

Funimation is one of the single most prolific companies to license and dub anime ever, a juggernaut in the current anime ecosystem and purveyor of high-quality anime DVDs and Blu-Rays to one of the only audiences left who cares about physical media. According to a spokesperson, Funimation generates over $100 million in annual sales and has grown over 10 percent a year since 2013.

On a hopeful note, Funimation does not appear to be overly tempted by the idea of being bought out. “The Funimation management team is more immediately focused on continuing to create compelling experiences for anime fans through physical, digital/streaming and theatrical efforts with goals of continuing to expand globally and maximizing shareholder value,” the company said in a statement.

Do you think Funimation should keep making an effort to stay independent? Are you worried about Funimation being bought out? What about Crunchyroll? Feel free to talk about anime, business and Hollywood in our comments section below.

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