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Crunchyroll, Sumitomo Announce Partnership to Create Company to Co-Produce Anime (Updated)

posted on by Crystalyn Hodgkins
Distribution site has 10 million+ registered users, 700,000 paid subscribers worldwide

Media distribution service Crunchyroll and Japanese trading company Sumitomo Corporation announced on Thursday that they have launched a joint venture to create a company focused on funding anime co-production projects. By being part of an anime's production committee, the company can immediately acquire foreign distribution rights and promote anime outside of Japan.

Crunchyroll and Sumitomo Corporation have yet to announce the company's name, the amount that either participant is investing, or the scope of the investment.

The announcement lists that Crunchyroll has 700,000 paying subscribers and more than 10 million registered users worldwide.

Iehisa Nakamura — Sumitomo Corporation's corporate officer and general manager of its media division — said in the announcement, "with this partnership, the voice of worldwide anime fans can reach anime production studios directly through the Crunchyroll platform, which I believe will produce fascinating anime for a worldwide audience as a result. We would like to contribute to the development of the anime industry by creating new anime for worldwide Japanese anime fans with Crunchyroll."

In its report on the announcement, the Anime! Anime! Japanese industry news website speculated that the move may be driven by increasingly high licensing costs for anime in recent years, due in part to the stiff competition for acquiring licenses for foreign distribution. Anime! Anime! added that by being part of the production committee, companies can instead be certain that they will hold the rights, instead of paying high licensing fees.

In February, Sumitomo Corporation, in partnership with Imagica Robot Holdings and the Cool Japan Fund, acquired SDI Media, an LA-based post-production firm that specializes in localizing foreign media, in order to expand its media content exports.

The Chernin Group, a company run by former News Corporation executive Peter Chernin, had announced in December 2013 that it had acquired a majority stake in Crunchyroll. The company noted at the time that it would use the website to expand into different genres.

Kun Gao co-founded Crunchyroll in 2007, and in 2008 the company raised US$4.05 million in its first-round funding from Venrock (the venture-capital arm of the Rockefeller family). GDH, the corporate parent of the Gonzo animation studio, also invested about US$2 million in Crunchyroll in 2008. Japanese media company TV Tokyo and Japanese e-book distributor Bitway each invested US$750,000 in Crunchyroll in 2010. Crunchyroll's "About" page currently lists its investors as Otter Media (a joint venture owned by The Chernin Group and AT&T) and TV Tokyo.

Crunchyroll launched its Crunchyroll Manga service in October 2013. The company offers simulcast services in North America, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Latin America.

As of November 2014, Crunchyroll listed that it had 400,000 paid subscribers.

Update: Link to English press release and more information from the press release added. Information on Crunchyroll's past investors and Gao's status as co-founder also clarified.

Source: Anime! Anime!

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