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Sony Merges Anime Streaming Businesses Under Funimation-Led Joint Venture (EXCLUSIVE)

Sony is putting even more of its shoulder into anime, consolidating two anime streaming businesses of Sony Music Entertainment Japan’s Aniplex with Sony Pictures Television’s U.S.-based Funimation unit.

The deal creates a new joint venture combining Funimation with the French and Australian anime divisions owned by Aniplex, a major anime video and music producer based in Tokyo. Under the JV structure, Funimation will acquire and distribute Japanese anime content across Funimation in the U.S. and Aniplex’s Wakanim in France and Madman Anime Group in Australia. The consolidated group, jointly owned by Aniplex and Sony Pictures Television, will be led by Funimation general manager Colin Decker.

“Anime is a growing area of importance for us at Sony Pictures Television,” SPT chairman Mike Hopkins said in announcing the JV. “By combining these businesses, we immediately increase our global reach and expertise in [subscription] VOD, theatrical, home video, merchandising, events and more.”

Formation of the new joint venture (operating under the Funimation name) comes after Sony Pictures Television earlier this year bought Manga Entertainment, a leading distributor of anime in the U.K. and Ireland. With the addition of Wakanim and Madman Anime, Funimation will now operate in 49 countries spanning 10 languages and will have about 300 employees worldwide, according to Decker.

“It just became clear when we looked at the global view of anime at Sony, these things should really be together,” said Decker, who joined Funimation from rival Crunchyroll this past May. “Aniplex is one of the most respected names in anime and strategically this positions us to deliver more value to fans and creators.”

The joint venture’s first project involves distribution of the TV series adaptation of Aniplex’s “Fate/Grand Order” mobile role-playing game. Starting Oct. 5, “Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia” (pictured above) will be simulcast in the U.S. on FunimationNow and will launch on Wakanim and Madman Anime Group’s AnimeLab in their respective territories — exclusively available on those platforms for a 30-day window before being more widely distributed. In addition, Funmation will also have one-year exclusive streaming rights on the dubbed version.

“Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia” is based on one of the most popular chapters in Part 1 of the mobile game, transporting viewers back to the age of ancient Mesopotamia in 2655 B.C. and the city of Uruk, governed by the wise King Gilgamesh. The fortress city is under siege by deities and demonic beasts, and protagonist Ritsuka Fujimaru and his companion Mash Kyrielight must lead a last-ditch effort to prevent humanity’s extinction.

Atsuhiro Iwakami, Aniplex’s president, commented on the transaction, “Through Sony Group’s integration of anime-related streaming services, we are thrilled that numerous Japanese anime titles will be distributed globally through its digital platforms. We hope our partnership will contribute to the further development and expansion of the Japanese anime industry.”

SPT bought a controlling stake in Funimation in 2017 for $143 million. A year ago, Funimation and Crunchyroll ended their previous cross-licensing pact.

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