Sony to buy stake in anime

Deal would make firm ma­jor­ity share­holder in U.S. dis­trib­u­tor Fu­ni­ma­tion.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By David Ng­

Sony is strength­en­ing its po­si­tion in the anime mar­ket by ac­quir­ing a ma­jor­ity stake in Fu­ni­ma­tion, one of the big­gest U.S. dis­trib­u­tors of Ja­panese an­i­mated movies and TV se­ries.

Fu­ni­ma­tion, which is based in Texas, re­leases anime through stream­ing, on DVD and in cin­e­mas. It is be­hind pop­u­lar ti­tles such as the “Dragon Ball” fran­chise and this year’s “Your Name.”

The deal with Sony Pic­tures Tele­vi­sion Net­works hasn’t closed yet and is sub­ject to reg­u­la­tory ap­provals, but Sony said Mon­day that the ac­qui­si­tion would value Fu­ni­ma­tion at about $150 mil­lion. Sony said it was tak­ing a “sub­stan­tial ma­jor­ity stake.”

The agree­ment will en­hance Sony’s ex­ist­ing anime of­fer­ings, which in­clude Animax, an anime network based in Japan that op­er­ates in 23 coun­tries.

Gen Fuku­naga, who founded Fu­ni­ma­tion in 1994 and serves as chief ex­ec­u­tive, will re­tain a mi­nor­ity stake in the busi­ness and re­main CEO.

The ac­qui­si­tion comes at a time of sig­nif­i­cant change in the anime in­dus­try as dis­trib­u­tors are learn­ing how to co-ex­ist with Net­flix and Ama­zon, which have moved ag­gres­sively into the mar­ket.

At the same time, Net­flix and Ama­zon con­tinue to part­ner with dis­trib­u­tors such as Fu­ni­ma­tion by li­cens­ing some of their con­tent. Fu­ni­ma­tion runs its own stream­ing ser­vice, Fu­ni­ma­tionNow, which spe­cial­izes in English-dubbed ver­sions of pop­u­lar anime ti­tles. Last year, the com­pany an­nounced a part­ner­ship with ri­val CrunchyRoll in which cer­tain ti­tles would be avail­able on both com­pa­nies’ stream­ing plat­forms.

The deal “al­lows us to de­liver the best anime to fans across all screens and plat­forms,” Andy Ka­plan, pres­i­dent of world­wide net­works at Sony Pic­tures Tele­vi­sion, said in a state­ment.

Sony Pic­tures Tele­vi­sion Net­works op­er­ates chan­nels that reach sub­scribers around the world. In ad­di­tion to Animax, its prop­er­ties and brands in­clude Crackle and AXN.

Sandy Huf­faker Getty Images

VIS­I­TORS to Comic-Con In­ter­na­tional in San Diego last month pass by the booth for Fu­ni­ma­tion. It re­leases anime through stream­ing, on DVD and in cin­e­mas.

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