The biggest names in anime are doing the Fusion Dance. AT&T agreed to sell production company Crunchyroll; and streaming service to its Sony-owned rival, Funimation. The $ 1.2 billion deal is a game-changer, as Crunchyroll and Funimation are practically the Netflix and Hulu of the anime.
According to Sony blog post, Crunchyroll and Funimation will operate independently until the merger goes through regulatory approval. What happens next is a mystery; Sony has not announced what it plans to do with the two anime brands.
The best scenario for this merger, at least for the average anime fan, is that the streaming services Crunchyroll and Funimation become one. Again, this would be like the merger of Netflix and Hulu, and it could save people a lot of money. Still, many fans fear that an anime monopoly will lead to less innovative shows and that the sense of community developed by Crunchyroll may dissipate by merging with the more business-focused Funimation.
For what it’s worth, the brands involved in this merger seem pretty optimistic! Meet Joanne Waage, CEO of Crunchyroll, who muses that fusion is “a victory for the incredible art form of anime.” Colin Decker, CEO of Funimation calls for fusion “A victory for the fans,” and declares that he is “honored to welcome the wonderful Crunchyroll team on a common 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 it’s a win for the average anime fan. It is also impossible to know what will happen to community programs such as the annual Crunchyroll Expo, which could transform under Sony’s supervision.