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Sony’s Funimation Ends Anime Licensing Pact With Crunchyroll

Funimation channel also will leave VRV, operated by AT&T's Otter Media

Anime distributor Funimation has ended its cross-licensing deal with Crunchyroll after two years, as Sony-owned Funimation looks to expand globally.

The decision to not renew the 2016 pact with Crunchyroll — now fully owned by AT&T after it acquired Chernin Group’s stake in Otter Media — stems from Funimation’s own acquisition by Sony Pictures Television a year ago.

Sony is making additional investments in the Funimation to make it “a global sub[titled] and dub anime brand,” Gen Fukunaga, Funimation’s president and CEO, wrote in an Oct. 18 internal memo obtained by Variety.

According to Fukunaga, the deal with Crunchyroll “ended amicably this month.”

With the end of the pact, as of Nov. 9, 2018, FunimationNow streaming subscribers will have access to several hundred subbed anime titles when the catalog reverts to Funimation, while “a handful” of dubbed titles will no longer be available on FunimationNow, according to Fukunaga’s memo. All the titles licensed during the partnership will continue to be shared with Crunchyroll and available to FunimationNow subscribers.

According to Funimation, the list of Crunchyroll titles that will roll off FunimationNow has not been finalized yet so. Some top titles that will now be available on FuninamtionNow in subbed episodes include: “My Hero Academia” (pictured above), “Cowboy Bebop,” “Space Dandy,” “Yu Yu Hakusho,” “Assassination Classroom,” “Snow White with the Red Hair” and “Death Parade.”

In addition, with the end of the Crunchyroll deal, on Nov. 9, Funimation’s channel will no longer be available on VRV, the digital-subscription aggregation platform run by Otter Media’s Ellation.

FunimationNow costs $5.99 per month (or $59.99 for a one-year subscription). The service is currently available in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. In addition to the titles listed above, Funimation’s catalog includes “Dragon Ball Z,” “One Piece,” “Attack on Titan,” “Shin Godzilla” and romantic-fantasy smash hit “Your Name.” Funimation Films’ latest theatrical release is Toho Co. Ltd.’s “My Hero Academia: Two Heroes,” which the company said is its second-highest box-office release garnering $5.7 million during its Sept. 25-Oct. 11 release.

Under their now-expired pact, Crunchyroll and Funimation each shared anime titles across streaming, home-video and electronic sell-through channels. Crunchyroll focused on subtitled content while Funimation specialized in English-dubbed programming of Japanese anime (“broadcast dubs”).

In July 2017, Sony Pictures Television Networks acquired a 95% majority stake in Funimation for about $143 million. Funimation is housed in SPT’s new direct-to-consumer unit headed by chief digital officer Eric Berger. Formed as part of a reorg this summer, the unit consolidates Sony Crackle along with Funimation, Film1 and Animax services.

Founded in 1994 as Funimation Productions, the company is now based in Flower Mound, Texas, near Fort Worth.

Read the full memo to Funimation staff from Fukunaga:

All,

I am writing to share some important news. Effective immediately, Funimation will once again independently acquire, market and distribute anime to the entire community – to both sub and dub fans. This new future is a result of our acquisition by Sony Pictures Television and additional investments Sony is making in our business to make Funimation a global sub and dub anime brand. As such, we’ve made the decision not to renew our collaboration with Crunchyroll, a relationship that ended amicably this month.

Our goal has always been to improve the fan experience and expand the reach of anime. We exceeded our goals in the past couple of years and have established ourselves as the anime industry’s most advanced streaming platform, expanded our global footprint, and accelerated our dub speed to market for new episodes coming out of Japan. While our partnership with Crunchyroll is ending, we are excited about the future, the support of Sony Pictures Television and their commitment, alongside ours, to build the best experience for anime fans globally.

We have enormous respect for the relationship we forged with Crunchyroll and will be working with them closely over the next several months to ensure a seamless transition in terms of our respective catalogs and offerings. That said, there will be some immediate changes ahead as we unwind the partnership. On November 9, 2018, our subscribers will have access to several hundred subbed titles when our catalog reverts to Funimation, while a handful of dubbed titles will no longer be available on FunimationNow. All the titles licensed during the partnership will continue to be shared with Crunchyroll and available to FunimationNow subscribers.

Thank you for your tireless work and dedication as well as your unwavering commitment to bring the best anime to the most people possible.

Please join me and the senior management team for an all-hands meeting. We will be able to address any questions you may have then. In the meantime, I would direct you to the special FAQs created for fans and subscribers that are now live on the Funimation blog.

Gen

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