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Chernin Group In Talks to Acquire Control of Asian Video Site Crunchyroll

Investment would value Internet media company at under $100 million, according to source

Chernin Group, the media company run by former News Corp. exec Peter Chernin, is in advanced discussions to acquire a controlling stake in Asian video website Crunchyroll, according to industry sources.

The investment, which is not a done deal yet, would give Chernin Group majority ownership of Crunchyroll. The amount of the stake was not available but it would value the company at under $100 million, a source familiar with the situation said.

Crunchyroll’s other investors include Venrock, the venture-capital arm of the Rockefeller family; Japanese media company TV Tokyo; and angel investors. The company raised $4.05 million in first-round funding in 2008. Venrock would exit while TV Tokyo would remain an owner following Chernin’s investment, a source said.

Chernin Group declined to comment. Crunchyroll CEO and co-founder Kun Gao did not respond to a request for info.

In March, Crunchyroll announced that it had signed up more than 200,000 subscribers for its premium services, doubling the base in six months. The site makes a more limited selection of titles available for free. “They’re one of the few Internet video players that has been able to successfully make the leap to a subscription model,” said VideoNuze analyst Will Richmond.

All told, Crunchyroll hosts 25,000-plus episodes of anime, Korean drama and live-action titles licensed from top Asian media producers, translated into multiple languages. The service is available on Crunchyroll.com and other platforms including iPhone, iPad, Android, Apple TV, PlayStation3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Roku.

On Wednesday, the company announced the launch of a digital comic service, Crunchyroll Manga, accessible online and via iOS and Android apps.

Chernin Group’s other investments include YouTube multichannel network Fullscreen; Base79, a U.K.-based MCN; mobile entertainment network Scopely; Flipboard; and Tumblr (which Yahoo acquired this year in a $1.1 billion deal).

Launched in 2009, Crunchyroll has offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Tokyo. The company is a member of the Association of Japanese Animations and Licensing International Merchandisers’ Association.

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