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Crunchyroll is an American distributor, publisher, and licensing company focused on streaming anime, manga, and dorama. Founded in 2006 by a group of University of California, Berkeley graduates, Crunchyroll’s distribution channel and partnership program delivers content to over 35 million online community members worldwide. Crunchyroll is a subsidiary of Otter Media, which is a subsidiary of AT&T‘s WarnerMedia. Crunchyroll has offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chișinău and Tokyo, and is a member of the Association of Japanese Animations (AJA).
Crunchyroll offers over 900 anime shows, more than 200 Asian dramas to users, and 50 manga titles, although not all programming is available worldwide due to licensing restrictions. In February 2017, Crunchyroll passed one million paid subscribers. Crunchyroll also selects some anime titles for release on Blu-ray/DVD through its distribution partners (Funimation and Viz Media in North America, Anime Limited in the United Kingdom).
Crunchyroll started in 2006 as a for-profit video upload and streaming site that specialized in hosting East Asian video content. Some of the content hosted on Crunchyroll included fansubbed versions of East Asian shows.
In 2008, Crunchyroll secured a capital investment of $4.05 million from the venture capital firm Venrock. The investment drew criticism from anime distributors and licensors Bandai Entertainment and Funimation as the site continued to allow users to upload illegal copies of licensed titles.
However, Crunchyroll eventually began securing legal distribution agreements with companies, including Gonzo, for an increasing number of titles. On January 8, 2009, after announcing a deal with TV Tokyo to host episodes of Naruto Shippuden, Crunchyroll stated that it was committed to removing all copyright-infringing material from its site and to hosting only content to which it had legitimate distribution rights.
On October 30, 2013, Crunchyroll began digitally distributing 12 different manga titles from Kodansha – series such as Attack on Titan and Fairy Tail were part of the manga that were available initially – through Crunchyroll Manga.
On December 2, 2013, The Chernin Group, former News Corp. president Peter Chernin‘s holding company, announced that it has acquired a controlling interest in Crunchyroll. A person with knowledge of the transaction said the price for the acquisition was close to $100 million. The Chernin Group said that Crunchyroll management and existing investor TV Tokyo will maintain a “significant” stake in the company.
On April 22, 2014, AT&T and The Chernin Group announced the formation of a joint venture to acquire, invest in and launch over-the-top (OTT) video services. Both companies committed over $500 million in funding to the venture. The new company was named Otter Media and became the majority owner of Crunchyroll. On August 3, 2015, Variety reported that Otter Media will unveil Ellation, a new umbrella company for its subscription-based video services including Crunchyroll. Ellation’s services included VRV, which debuted in 2016, a video streaming platform described as targeting “geeks, gamers and lovers of comedy, fantasy and technology.”
On October 22, 2015, the Anime News Network reported that Crunchyroll has 700,000 paying subscribers. In addition, the company announced that Crunchyroll and Sumitomo Corporation had created a joint venture to produce and invest in anime productions.
On April 11, 2016, Crunchyroll and Kadokawa Corporation announced the formation of a strategic alliance that gave Crunchyroll exclusive worldwide digital distribution rights (excluding Asia) for Kadokawa anime titles in the upcoming year. It also granted Crunchyroll the right to co-finance Kadokawa anime titles to be produced in the future.
On July 1, 2016, Crunchyroll announced plans to dub and release a number of series on home video.
On September 8, 2016, Crunchyroll announced a partnership with Funimation. Crunchyroll will stream selected Funimation titles, while Funimation will stream selected Crunchyroll titles, as well as their upcoming dubbed content. In addition, Funimation and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will act as distributors for Crunchyroll’s home video catalog. On October 18, 2018, Funimation announced that their partnership with Crunchyroll has ended as a result of Sony Pictures Television‘s acquisition of Funimation and AT&T’s acquisition of Crunchyroll’s parent company Otter Media.
On November 4, 2017, a group of hackers managed to DNS hijack the official site for almost 6 hours. Users were redirected to a fake lookalike site which prompted users to download a ransomware under the guise of “CrunchyViewer”. Crunchyroll has filed a first information report against the hackers.
In January 2018, Otter Media bought the remaining shares (20%) of Crunchyroll from TV Tokyo and other investors. In August 2018, AT&T acquired the remainder of Otter Media that it did not already own from Chernin Group; the company and Crunchyroll were thus folded under WarnerMedia (formerly Time Warner, of which AT&T had also recently completed an acquisition).
On March 4, 2019, it was announced that Otter Media would be placed under Warner Bros. as part of a reorganization. As a result of the same reorganization, the company and Crunchyroll became corporate sisters to the U.S. cable channels Cartoon Network and Adult Swim—which have been known for their television broadcasting of anime under the Toonami brand. Due to a subsequent reorganization, Crunchyroll was moved under WarnerMedia Entertainment (owner of networks such as TBS and TNT) in May 2019, so that its COO could oversee an upcoming entertainment streaming service from the brand.
On July 3, 2019, Crunchyroll announced that they had partnered with Viz Media to distribute select Crunchyroll licensed titles on home video and electronic sell-through in the United States and Canada.