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Variety: AT&T Asks at Least US$1 Billion for Crunchyroll From Multiple Buyers

posted on by Adriana Hazra
Sony reportedly declined US$1.5 billion asking price

Entertainment news source Variety reported on Wednesday that parent company AT&T has set an asking price of at least US$1 billion for its sale of Crunchyroll. According to the website, the company is pitching Crunchyroll to potential buyers aside from Sony Pictures Entertainment. Though AT&T reportedly offered Crunchyroll to Sony for US$1.5 billion, that figure is "much higher than the company is expecting to get" for the service, according to Variety's source.

Technology website The Information reported on Wednesday that AT&T offered to sell Crunchyroll to Sony for US$1.5 billion, citing "three people familiar with the situation." Sony reportedly "balked at" the price, which effectively values the streaming service at US$500 per subscriber. According to another "person familiar with the matter," AT&T previously valued Crunchyroll at the equivalent of US$400 per subscriber.

The Information noted that the discussions may show "AT&T's willingness to sell valuable assets to bring down its $151 billion debt load." The website had reported in May that WarnerMedia, a subsidiary of AT&T, was considering selling Crunchyroll. However, WarnerMedia reportedly tabled the decision to allow its new CEO Jason Kilar, who assumed the role in May, "to evaluate the business and strategy."

Crunchyroll surpassed three million subscribers and 70 million registered users on July 28. The service had reached more than two million subscribers in October 2018 and more than one million subscribers in February 2017.

Sony Pictures Television and Aniplex consolidated three Sony-owned anime acquisition and distribution companies — Funimation based in the United States, Wakanim based in France, and Madman Anime Group based in Australia — into one joint venture in September. Sony Pictures Television Networks acquired a majority stake in Funimation for US$143 million in 2017. Funimation ended its content-sharing partnership with Crunchyroll in November 2018, and signed a first-look streaming deal with Hulu.

Crunchyroll launched in 2006 as a streaming service offering anime titles without authorization. The website secured US$4.05 million in its first-round funding from Venrock and began licensing titles for streaming in 2008.

The Chernin Group acquired a majority stake in Crunchyroll in December 2013. The Chernin Group and AT&T formed the joint venture Otter Media in 2014, and Otter Media invested another US$22 million in Crunchyroll's parent company Ellation in November 2015. AT&T then announced in August 2018 that it acquired all of Otter Media.

Crunchyroll and Viz Media Europe closed the deal for Crunchyroll to become the majority owner of Viz Media Europe Group last December. The companies announced the agreement in September 2019. Viz Media Europe SAS (Société par Actions Simplifiées or simplified joint-stock company) announced in April that it changed its name to Crunchyroll SAS.

Source: Variety (Todd Spangler)

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