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Anime video service Crunchyroll has over 3 million paying subscribers as well as 90 million registered users, according to a release announcing the deal.
It is now being combined with the company running Funimation, a competing anime video service jointly owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment and a Japanese subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment.
The deal represents an end for AT&T's big bet on niche video subscriptions. The telco teamed up with Hollywood mogul Peter Chernin in 2014 to found Otter Media, a holding company that was supposed to both grow Crunchyroll as well as spin up a number of similar video services targeting fans of niche content. AT&T bought out Chernin in 2018 to take full control of Crunchyroll and other Otter Media entities.
But while Crunchyroll grew to be a successful business that now extends into events, merchandise sales and even video games, efforts to launch similar services targeting fans of Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean content ultimately fell flat. The team behind Crunchyroll instead pivoted to build VRV, a niche subscription bundle that combines Crunchyroll with other niche services. Now, AT&T is selling VRV together with Crunchyroll and other recently acquired assets (KAZE, Anime on Demand, Anime Digital Network, Eye See Movies) to Funimation.
Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.