Following the announcement of the acquisition of Crunchyroll by Sony, the American justice system is worried about the monopoly that the company could have on the Japanese animation market and that this is hurting competition in a period when the genre is becoming more and more more popular in the United States.
Last December, Sony reached an agreement with Warner Media (a subsidiary of AT & T) to buy the SVOD platform Crunchyroll from it for $ 1.2 billion. Founded in 2006, it specializes in the distribution of Japanese animated series and films. But this agreement worries American justice according to the site The Information, the authorities fear that Sony will take advantage of its future dominant position to control the market. The company has many popular licenses such as Dragon Ball, Full Metal Alchimist, Attack On Titan or even Sailor Moon. With this takeover, it would also have some control over the publishing of print manga and the organization of conventions that are part of the portfolio of the two brands.
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By merging the Funimation group (owned by Sony and known in France for its subsidiary Wakanim), and Crunchyroll, (3 million paying subscribers and 90 million users worldwide) Sony could create a real empire. Colin Deker, CEO of Funimation, explained during the deal: “Combining these two great companies will be a victory for the fans and allow us to compete on a truly global scale”. A situation that is therefore worrying in the United States in a context where anime is attracting more and more people. Major players like Netflix or Amazon have even strengthened their offer by producing their own content.
According to the sources of The Information Still, the US Department of Justice is investigating whether the deal limits the options of Japanese studios wishing to release licenses in the US. The investigation should last at least 6 months and could, according to its conclusions, put an end to the takeover. Neither Sony, AT&T or the justice department declined to respond to the comments. But according to The Information, “WarnerMedia and Sony have told the Department of Justice that Crunchyroll and Sony’s burgeoning anime empire are just two of the many options available to anime creators for distributing their shows outside of Japan.”.
We will have to wait for the results of the investigation to find out more. The acquisition of Crunchyroll is indeed a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it would make it easier to democratize the anime market, on the other, monopolies like this one risk blocking the market for new entrants.