Crunchyroll: Sony’s Anime Market Takeover

At the tail end of 2020, Sony set out to purchase Crunchyroll.

AT&T, Crunchyroll’s owners, wanted to shed debt, and Sony wants to dominate the anime space. It’s a match made in business heaven.

The US government, however, has some questions.

It came out recently that the acquisition has come under antitrust scrutiny. (Update: Sony and Crunchyroll officially announced closure of the deal on August 9th) In a nutshell, the US government wants to make sure that Sony won’t own too much of the anime market. In response, Sony and AT&T are arguing that anime isn’t a distinct market. They’re instead asserting that it’s just one part of a broader range of animation geared toward adults, comparing anime to the likes of The Simpsons.

Discounting the differences in consumer habits, business model, and marketing, the argument does a disservice to the medium. Sony and AT&T are willing to throw anime under the bus to do this deal. It’s a win for both sides, but could be a loss for the consumer.

The initiation of the antitrust inquiry, however, implies that the DoJ does see anime as a distinct market. Assuming that’s true, do they have a case? How much of the market would Sony own by buying Crunchyroll?

Market Share: Crunchyroll & Funimation

2020 Anime Streaming License Market Share. Funimation: 50.85% Crunchyroll: 34.75%

I went through AniChart’s lists of TV anime for 2020 to find the streaming license distribution. I’d initially estimated an 80% market share between both Crunchyroll and Funimation. That turned out to be mostly accurate, if a bit underestimated.

Crunchyroll and Funimation own 85.6% of the 2020 anime market. Sony Pictures would be gaining almost 35% of the market by purchasing Crunchyroll. Factoring in Aniplex of America (owned by a different Sony division than Funimation) the total percentage reaches 92.4%.

(As an aside, Bushiroad’s D4DJ First Mix launched as a non-exclusive license. The series premiered simultaneously on Crunchyroll, Funimation, HIDIVE, and other services.)

These are quick-and-dirty statistics, but they’re eye-opening. A single company owns half of the anime market. The next company in line owns a further 35%. And both of those companies are owned by massive parent companies.

Unless 2020 is a particularly anomalous year in terms of anime licensing, the numbers show that Sony stands to control a massive market share in anime.

Which explains why Sony and AT&T are so quick to compare anime to The Simpsons.