The biggest names in anime are doing the Fusion Dance. AT&T has agreed to sell the Crunchyroll production company and streaming service to its rival, the Sony-owned Funimation. The $1.2 billion deal is a total game-changer, as Crunchyroll and Funimation are practically the Netflix and Hulu of anime.
According to Sony’s blog post, Crunchyroll and Funimation will run independently until the merger goes through regulatory approval. What happens afterwards is a mystery; Sony hasn’t announced what it plans to do with the two anime brands.
The best-case scenario for this merger, at least for the average anime fan, is that the Crunchyroll and Funimation streaming services become one. Again, it would be like Netflix and Hulu merging, and it could save people a lot of money. Still, many fans are worried that a monopoly on anime could lead to less innovative shows, and that the sense of community developed by Crunchyroll could disentigrate as it fuses with the more corporate-minded Funimation.
For what it’s worth, the brands involved in this merger sound pretty optimistic! Check out Joanne Waage, GM of Crunchyroll, who muses that the merger is “a win for the incredible art form of anime.” Funimation CEO Colin Decker calls the merger “a win for fans,” and states that he is “honored to welcome the wonderful Crunchyroll team to a shared mission—to help everyone belong to the extraordinary world of anime.”
This merger will almost certainly be a “win” for someone, but until we know the details, it’s hard to say if its a win for the average anime fan. It’s also impossible to know what will happen to community-orinted programs like the annual Crunchyroll Expo, which could transform under Sony’s supervision.