Sony Pictures Entertainment has closed its $1.175 billion acquisition of Crunchyroll from AT&T, adding to the list of entertainment assets recently shed by the telecom giant.
The company will be combined with Sony’s Funimation, creating a powerhouse in anime. Funimation is a joint venture between SPE and Sony Music Entertainment’s Aniplex Inc.
The agreement was first announced in December 2020 but reports surfaced in the spring about regulatory concern about the concentration of anime assets under a single corporate roof. Crunchyroll last week said it had accumulated 5 million streaming subscribers. It has 120 million registered users across more than 200 countries and territories, offering AVOD, mobile games, manga, events merchandise and distribution.
The announcement of the transaction’s completion said it would enable Crunchyroll and Funimation to “broaden distribution for their content partners and expand fan-centric offerings for consumers.”
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AT&T last week completed the spinoff of DirecTV into a new entity 30%-owned by private equity firm TPG. It has set a $43 billion merger of its WarnerMedia subsidiary with Discovery Communications, a deal expected to gain regulatory approval by next summer. In addition to those major transactions, AT&T has parted with a 10% stake in Hulu, its headquarters building in New York and Latin American DirecTV subsidiary Vrio.
The moves have enabled the company to ship away at its debt load, which was a staggering $180 billion at the time of the Time Warner acquisition in 2018. The company’s current plan is to lower its net debt-to-adjusted EBITDA ratio to below 2.5 times by year-end 2023, from the range above 4x where it has been in recent years.
“We are very excited to welcome Crunchyroll to the Sony Group,” said Sony Corp. CEO Kenichiro Yoshida. “Anime is a rapidly growing medium that enthralls and inspires emotion among audiences around the globe. The alignment of Crunchyroll and Funimation will enable us to get even closer to the creators and fans who are the heart of the anime community. We look forward to delivering even more outstanding entertainment that fills the world with emotion through anime.”
Tony Vinciquerra, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said Crunchyroll would bring “tremendous value” to the company’s anime efforts. He said the company plans to create “a unified anime subscription experience as soon as possible.”
By combining the two operations, he said, “we are committed to creating the ultimate anime experience for fans and presenting a unique opportunity for our key partners, publishers, and the immensely talented creators to continue to deliver their masterful content to audiences around the world.”
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