Following rumors earlier this year that AT&T was looking to sell anime streaming service and fledgling production company Crunchyroll, Sony has become the front-runner to acquire the company for over $957 million USD.
News of the sale was first announced by Nikkei Asia, who revealed that Sony has both “recently obtained the exclusive right to negotiate for Crunchyroll” and “entered into final negotiations to acquire U.S. anime-streaming service Crunchyroll,” in a deal that could see the Japanese conglomerate “spending more than 100 billion yen ($957 million) on the U.S. streamer.”
As reported in August, AT&T is looking to sell Crunchyroll as part of a larger strategy “to sell valuable assets to bring down its $151 billion debt load,” much of which was acquired through the acquisition of Time Warner, since renamed to WarnerMedia, in 2018.
If the deal is completed, Sony would gain Crunchyroll’s “70 million members around the world” and catalogue of “more than 1,000 titles “ while simultaneously intensifying “global competition for content among companies like Netflix and Hulu.”
The acquisition would also strengthen Sony’s position as a giant within the anime industry, as the company currently owns both Funimation and Aniplex, the studio behind such popular anime series as Naruto, Demon Slayer, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
In 2020, Crunchyroll began producing its own anime series and adaptations under the label ‘Crunchyroll Originals.’
Thus far, the studio has produced adaptations of In/Spectre, Tower of God, The God of Highschool, TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You, and Noblesse, as well as an original work, Gibiate.
However, Sony’s interest in Crunchyroll is particularly troubling for fans due to Sony’s admitted and overly sensitive censorship policy towards Asian titles, which has seen titles such as Devil May Cry V and Aokana: Four Rhythms Across the Blue awkwardly and unnecessarily censored while Western titles like The Last of Us II remain untouched.
Combined with Funimation’s notorious reputation for injecting Western sociopolitical topics and censoring their licensed anime productions, including a character being referred to as a “GamerGate creepshow” in Prison School and Interspecies Reviewer being dropped completely due to its content, Crunchyroll’s purchase by Sony could potentially lead to similar unwarranted changes being made to Crunchyroll’s library.
What do you make of this potential acquisition? Does it give you hope or make you concerned for the future of Crunchyroll’s anime offerings? Let us know your thoughts!