Founded by Gen Fukunaga back in 1994, Texas-based U.S. anime distributor and licensing company FUNimation is about to gain a new majority shareholder. After a valuation of the company at $150 million, Sony Pictures TV is seeking to acquire a “substantial majority stake” in the media distributor. This would given them access to FUNimation’s catalog that includes classics like One Piece, Dragon Ball Z and Cowboy Bebop, and contemporary hits like Attack on Titan and My Hero Academia, as well as the smash hit movie Your Name, which tallied $354.5 million at the worldwide box office.
Variety has the details on the planned acquisition, which is still subject to regulatory approvals and other closing conditions. Fukunaga would retain a minority stake in the company and remain CEO while Sony Pictures TV will bolster their international multiplatform network, Animax. What the write-up doesn’t address, however, is how the deal would effect things like the partnership with dubbed anime-distributor Crunchyroll–which is currently streaming their content on Twitch in a week-long marathon, even though Amazon owns Twitch and has their own anime sub-network–or platforms like VRV, which give subscribers access to both FUNimation and Crunchyroll’s content, as well as other brands.
In a statement, Andy Kaplan, president of worldwide networks for Sony Pictures Television, said:
With the acquisition of Funimation, the combined [intellectual property] of Animax, Kids Station and Funimation allows us to deliver the best anime to fans across all screens and platforms.
Clearly, Sony Pictures TV is looking to tap into their resourceful anime pipelines in both Japan and, now, the U.S. in order to become the go-to provider for what is honestly a rather scattered and fragmented anime delivery market. Crunchyroll and Amazon’s Anime Strike execs are certainly taking notice, and even diversified streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu may notice the new fish in the pond if securing anime distribution rights becomes more complicated in the near future. Once the deal closes in earnest and the dust settles, we’ll see what the acquisition means for anime fans, for better or worse.