Sony is close to finalizing a deal to buy US-based anime streaming service Crunchyroll for nearly $1 billion, according to a report from Nikkei Asia.
Nikkei says Sony negotiated exclusive rights to bid for the streaming service and its 3 million paying subscribers earlier this year, and the two companies have now “entered into final negotiations.” Although an asking price is unclear, Nikkei notes that Sony could end up spending “more than 100 billion yen” on the company — around $957 million.
Crunchyroll is owned by US telecoms giant AT&T, which has reportedly been looking to offload the streaming service for a while. AT&T is keen to minimize its significant debt load, which totals more than $150 billion. According to a report from The Information, AT&T was asking Sony in August to pay $1.5 billion for Crunchyroll, but the Japanese firm thought that price too steep. AT&T currently bundles some anime content from Crunchyroll into its HBO Max subscription and offers a separate Crunchyroll membership for $8 a month.
From Sony’s point of view, acquiring Crunchyroll would help it bulk up its entertainment offering in a market that is dominated by streamers like Netflix and Hulu. Anime has become an important front in the battle between streaming services, with companies fighting to license popular series and films (the end result being fragmented access for consumers).
Sony already owns US anime distributor Funimation, which licenses a number of popular shows like Attack on Titan, Fullmetal Alchemist, and One Piece. Acquiring Crunchyroll would help it build out its catalog even further, expanding its offering in Japan and abroad, too.