Nikkei Asia reported that Sony “could end up spending more than 100 billion yen” (or $957 million USD) for Crunchyroll, although an asking price is as yet unclear. Sony had previously negotiated exclusive rights to bid for ownership of the streaming site and its over 3 million subscribers.
It was originally reported in The Information that AT&T, the current owners of Crunchyroll, came to Sony and offered Crunchyroll for $1.5 billion USD. AT&T is looking to offload its assets to minimize its own debt, which totals more than $150 billion, and has reportedly been looking to sell the streaming service for a while.
Sony “balked at” the initial price, which effectively values each unique paying Crunchyroll subscriber at $500 USD each. Variety then reported that AT&T had changed the asking price to at least $1 billion USD for Crunchyroll. They also reported that AT&T was talking to many potential buyers other than Sony.
AT&T already offers anime content in partnership with Crunchyroll to HBO Max subscriptions.
Sony looking to buy Crunchyroll and corner the anime streaming market
Acquiring Crunchyroll would help Sony bulk up its share in the entertainment streaming market, helping it compete with dominant services, such as Netflix and Hulu. Anime streaming to Western audiences has become a large part of gaining market share in recent years. Sony already owns US-based anime distributor Funimation with licenses to dubbing and distribution of a number of popular anime, such as Dragon Ball, One Piece and Naruto. Sony Pictures originally bought out Funimation for $150 million USD.
Crunchyroll’s subscriber statistics reveal that they have three million unique subscribers and 70 million registered users as of July 2020. The company also revealed new subscription tiers in August.
Crunchyroll originally went live in 2006 as a streaming service, streaming titles (without proper licensing) to online audiences. The website had high initial success, securing $4.05 USD million over its first quarters. After acquiring funding from Venrock, the site started streaming with licensing in 2008. They reached more than one million subscribers by February 2017 and two million by October 2018.
In December 2013, The Chernin Group bought the majority stake in the Crunchyroll site. The Cherinin Group went on to form joint venture Otter Media with AT&T in 2014. Otter Media continued to invest another $22 million USD into Crunchyroll through their parent company, Ellation, up until 2015. In August 2018, AT&T announced that they’d be acquiring all the assets of Otter Media and taking the majority stake in Crunchyroll.