Sony’s plan to combine Crunchyroll and Funimation into a streaming service to lead its anime empire seemed as simple as tossing AT&T a billion dollars. But now the plan is reportedly concerning enough that the US Department of Justice is extending its antitrust review of the $1.175 billion purchase into a full-on probe, according to three sources who spoke to The Information.
The DOJ is focused on whether the deal limits the options of Japanese studios looking to license shows in the US, according to The Information’s sources. “WarnerMedia and Sony have told the Justice Department that Crunchyroll and Sony’s budding anime empire are just two of many options anime creators have to distribute their shows outside Japan,” The Information writes, but even if direct competition isn’t a concern, there could be other reasons to worry.
Controlling both Funimation and Crunchyroll means one thing in the context of anime streaming services in the US, but taken with all the other things Crunchyroll does, like manga publishing and anime conventions, and the international anime companies Sony already purchased in Australia and France, the company could have a huge amount of control over the entire industry.
As we wrote in 2019, Funimation and Crunchyroll were already two of the biggest streaming anime services outside of Japan, while big players like Amazon, Netflix and even the newer HBO Max have been beefing up their offerings with anime too. If the DOJ doesn’t block Sony’s deal and it manages to merge Crunchyroll and Funimation, Sony could very easily become the anime streaming provider to beat.
Sony, AT&T, and the DOJ didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.