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Funimation President: 'We Tried to Renew Deal with Crunchyroll'

posted on by Kim Morrissy
Gen Fukunaga also explains why he believes Funimation's deal with Hulu "makes sense"

Last month, Crunchyroll and Funimation ended their cross-platform licensing partnership. The deal had enabled the two companies to share their catalog titles on each other's streaming platforms, as well as license titles jointly.

In an interview with Newsweek posted on Thursday, Funimation president Gen Fukunaga said that Funimation had tried to renew the partnership with Crunchyroll, but that Crunchyroll's terms did not suit Funimation. "Sony had to make this tough decision," Fukunaga said. "If [Crunchyroll wasn't] going to budge on those terms, then we just have to double down and decide if we're going to go at it alone. And that's what happened.”

The dispute was apparently about international expansion. According to Newsweek, Funimation's streaming rights were restricted to certain regions under the Crunchyroll deal. Fukunaga said that he felt that Sony Pictures Television Networks, which acquired a minority stake in Funimation in 2017, had the technology and infrastructure to provide Funimation with more global exposure. Sony advised Funimation to terminate the Crunchyroll deal so that the company could expand its global operations.

This marks the first time a representative from either company has spoken openly about the circumstances that led to the termination of the deal.

Fukunaga said that the acquisitions for the winter 2019 anime season were "mostly" still obtained under the Crunchyroll and Funimation partnership, but that going forward the two companies will bid separately for exclusive streaming rights for the sub and dub releases. “That's important for Sony to get that exclusivity, and global rights,” said Fukunaga.

Fukunaga also spoke about the exclusive first-look streaming deal Funimation recently signed with Hulu. Starting in 2019, Hulu will get first pick on Funimation's new titles in the United States, so Hulu and Funimation will be the only U.S. streaming outlets for some of Funimation's simulcasts and simuldubs. Fukunaga said that Hulu has its own anime base that will help Funimation co-buy content and bid for more highly sought titles.

"[Hulu will] help us get the mass exposure and we can get the hardcore anime fans on our platform," Fukunaga told Newsweek. "It was a good partnership in that sense and we can co-exist. And that's why it works for us.”

A few days ago, Fukunaga spoke to Polygon about Netflix's acquisition of the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series, claiming that it was "a disservice for anime fans" and that Funimation would have done better at brand management.

Source: Newsweek (Phillip Martinez)

Update: Fukunaga retained a minority stake and not a majority stake in Funimation.

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