Sony acquires major stake in Funimation

As of July 31st 2017 Sony Pictures Television Networks has reached a deal with anime distributor Funimation to acquire a 95% stake in the company for the price of $143 million dollars, making it the majority shareholder in the company. The deal values Funimation at about $150 million. Gen Fukunaga, founder and CEO of Funimation, will retain a minority stake in the company and remain as Chief Executive.

“With Funimation’s long-established leadership position in anime and Sony’s direct access to the creative pipeline in Japan, it will be a great partnership to take Funimation to the next level,” –Gen Fukunaga

The next day, Tuesday August 1st, the Federal Trade Commission approved the merger without any delay. According to reports neither the FTC nor the Justice Department found a reason to block or make conditions on the deal. It effectively makes Sony a major player in the Western anime space; competing with the likes of Netflix and Amazon in distributing anime.

With the deal, Funimation’s rights to 450 brands, dubbed and subbed anime offerings, will become part of Sony’s Animax network, which is distributed to 23 countries, including Japan. Animax operates as separate 24-hour TV channel for Japan, four separate feeds for South East Asia, Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and South Korea. In addition to VOD platforms in the United Kingdom, Germany, India, Austria and Switzerland, the streaming service added Animax to their lineup for the North America region. Towards the end of 2013 however, the Animax branding was dropped, though Crackle continues to stream anime titles. Its current programming comes from Funimation, Media Blasters, Toei Animation and Aniplex of America.

On top of Animax, Sony has also doubled up if you will on the Playstation Network turning it more into an entertainment system rather than just a video game console. You can buy Funimation and a vast variety of other anime titles through their PS store. So with this merger the amount of anime available for digital purchase can only grow. Which I always felt was an avenue anime needed to go to. Streaming services are great for keeping up with anime that is airing in Japan or to try out a few titles that everyone swears is great and judge for yourself. Services like VUDU & Google movies allow anime fans to purchase anime digitally so they can take their anime with them everywhere as opposed to having to bring a DVD or using unlicensed sites to stream them. The positives out way the possible negatives of this merger a lot of people seem to have. I think we have to remember that we are no longer in the early 90s when anime first started knocking on Western shores and became stifled by bad editing, or lack of support by major studios. English dubbing will always be a hit or miss based on personal preference, but the availability is what’s important. The next step I see in Sony’s anime venture will be producing their own original anime like Netflix and Amazon are currently doing.   

The biggest question mark throughout this merger is what happens to the previous deal Funimation struck with CrunchyRoll to share their libraries? As of right now there is no word yet on whether or not that deal will still stand or if Sony plans on canceling the deal outright. My guess is Sony will keep the deal in place until things on their end start to pick up where they no longer see the benefit. As far as CrunchyRoll goes it may have to 

Previously it was reported that both Sony and Universal were both making bids to acquire Funimation. Universal, which has a multiyear deal with Funimation to distribute its DVDs, had since decided to not proceed any further than an initial bid. - Online Shopping for Digital Codes, Video Games, Toys, Music, Electronics & more

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