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Anime Antitrust Battle: Crunchyroll-Funimation Deal Could Get Blocked

Jeff Kotuby

The U.S. Justice Department has something to say about Sony’s plans to acquire Crunchyroll. A report by The Information revealed that the DOJ has extended its anti-trust review into the deal, fearing an anime monopoly should the deal go through.

According to the DOJ, a potential Funimation/Crunchyroll merger could greatly limit the number of options Japanese studios have when looking to license their shows in the United States. Crunchyroll isn’t just an anime service, either — they’ve recently expanded into manga publishing and, before the COVID-19 pandemic, started hosting conventions. On top of existing deals with Australian and French anime distribution platforms, Sony could very well have their hands all over the entire Japanese animation industry should this deal go through.

While anime is a niche interest in the U.S., it’s growing, and other media houses are taking notice.

Netflix routinely adds new anime to its service, whether through licensing shows found elsewhere or bringing series exclusively to its platform. Shows like “The Seven Deadly Sins,” “Baki,”and “Castlevania” have become incredibly popular with anime fans — and Netflix is the only place to watch them.

Similarly, Hulu has banked on classic heavy-hitters like “Yu Yu Hakusho” and “Trigun” to bring anime fans to its platform. Hulu also allows users to watched dubbed versions of “Dragon Ball Super” and “Attack on Titan,” something Crunchyroll does not. It makes sense for Sony to want in on such a competitive market, especially when there’s money to be made.

Late last year, Sony’s Funimation and Crunchyroll announced a $1.175 billion deal that would see the anime streaming service change ownership from AT&T to Funimation. Sony acquired Funimation back in 2017 as a way to diversify its offerings. Funimation is an American entertainment company that specializes in translating and localizing Japanese animation for U.S. audiences. Funimation licensed popular series like the “Dragon Ball” series, “One Piece,” “Naruto,” “Bleach,” “Yu Yu Hakusho,” “My Hero Academia,” “Attack on Titan,” and more.

Last month, Crunchyroll announced it reached 4 million subscribers, just six months after reaching 3 million.

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