Crunchyroll, a leading anime subscription service, is raising its monthly subscription cost to $7.99, up from $6.95. The price hike is the first time Crunchyroll has raised the price of its basic, most widely purchased plan since the service first launched in 2006. The changes go into effect for new users on May 1st, 2019, while existing users get a three-month grace period. The news, first reported by TechCrunch, has since been confirmed by an email Crunchyroll has sent to subscribers.
“Crunchyroll has the world’s largest collection of anime and we are grateful to have focused on building out such a robust library over the last decade, without a price change in our company history,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “However, due to rising costs of content and infrastructure, now is the time to introduce new subscription pricing.” According to the company, it now offers more than 90 percent of all officially licensed anime content in the world, thanks to years of work partnering with studios in Japan and elsewhere to secure proper rights.
The anime streaming wars are heating up
Prior to Crunchyroll, and the rise of American distributors like Viz Media and Sony-owned Funimation, Western anime fans had to rely either on pricey imports, piracy, or dubbed versions of popular shows licensed by companies like Williams Street Productions, the WarnerMedia division responsible for Cartoon Network content blocks like Toonami and Adult Swim. In fact, WarnerMedia, now owned by AT&T after its Time Warner merger, also now owns Crunchyroll. (The site was acquired by the company that would become Crunchyroll parent company Otter Media, which AT&T picked up last August following the merger announcement.)
All that M&A business means AT&T now has a pretty formidable young adult and anime-focused content arm under Warner Bros. And the division will certainly need AT&T’s resources now that Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu are building out robust anime libraries to attract younger viewers. Netflix has been spending a fortune on licensing popular animated shows and directly producing new hits like Aggretsuko, Castlevania, and the Devilman Crybaby remake.
Amazon, meanwhile, tried launching its own subscription service called Anime Strike, but it closed down after a year and Amazon migrated its content library over to Prime Video. Hulu has been building out its library with a lot of classic and fan favorites, and most recently it secured the stateside exclusive on One Punch Man’s second season, beating out Crunchyroll, Funimation, and others.
Given the competition, it makes sense that Crunchyroll may want to cover additional licensing fees, exclusivity deals, and other costs as the anime streaming battle heats up. For current subscribers, the $6.95 rate will stay in effect for three months after the price change, so until August 1st, 2019, the company says. After that, the price will jump to $7.99 for everyone. For annual members, Crunchyroll is saying you’ll be able to keep your current rate for another whole year after your renewal date.