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Crunchyroll Co-Founder Kun Gao Moves Into Advisory Role, Joanne Waage Heads Anime Service as GM

Kun Gao, co-founder and former general manager of Crunchyroll, has stepped aside from day-to-day management of the anime-streaming service, which is now led by general manager Joanne Waage.

According to a Crunchyroll statement, Gao remains “very much involved” with the service as an adviser and is “continuing to work on several projects.” In addition, Gao serves as a board member of Crunchyroll KK, the division’s Tokyo-based operation.

“The last 12 years has been a wild and exhilarating ride, and it’s humbling to see that Crunchyroll is now a daily habit for millions around the world,” Gao said in a statement. “I feel great about where we are today and am confident that Joanne and the team will continue to stamp the world (Crunchyroll) orange.”

Crunchyroll is now a wholly owned part of AT&T’s Otter Media, after the telco bought out the Chernin Group’s majority stake in the digital-media venture earlier this year. In early December, Otter Media laid off 10% of its employees but according to sources Crunchyroll was spared from the cuts.

In October, Sony’s Funimation announced the end of its cross-licensing pact with Crunchyroll, under which Crunchyroll offered subtitled versions of shows also available in dubbed versions on Funimation.

Crunchyroll recently hit 2 million paying subscribers, which is priced starting at $6.95 per month, and it claims to have more than 45 million registered users worldwide. The service offers more than 1,000 anime titles, comprising a collection of over 30,000 episodes.

According to Crunchyroll, Waage has been serving as general manager of the San Francisco-based service since September. Previously, she served as CEO of streaming service Rakuten Viki. Before joining Viki in 2015, Waage worked at MobiTV for 10 years, including as SVP of business development and head of content acquisition. Earlier in her career, she worked at Viacom’s MTV Networks.

“Even prior to joining the team, I saw Crunchyroll fueling the widespread popularity of anime, as the clear leader in the space,” Waage said in a statement. “We have big plans to create more 360-degree experiences for fans via content, games, merchandise, events and more.”

This week, Crunchyroll launched a new brand campaign, “Stay Crunchy,” running across broadcast, movie theaters, streaming audio, and digital and social media channels. The marketing spiel is centered on a spot, created by L.A. ad agency Omelet, that pays tribute “to those who live anime.”

The 90-second ad (below and at this link) blends live action and anime and features the service’s mascot, Hime, who comes to life as an animated character for the first time.

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