Crunchyroll is an American Video on Demand (VoD) platform whose work is the distribution and broadcasting of Japanese animated series, manga, dorama, feature films and dramas.
It was founded in the year 2006 by University of California group of graduate students at Berkeley. Crunchyroll was created for broadcasting content through video streaming, to more than 120 million registered users currently. 5 million users are subscribed through payment from more than 200 countries around the world. The company is owned by Funimation, which is a subsidiary of Sony . Crunchyroll has its offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kishinev and Tokyo. It is a member of The Association of Japanese Animation (AJA). The official mascot of Crunchyroll is called as Crunchyroll-Hime.
Crunchyroll offers various anime series, Asian dramas and manga titles such as Crunchyroll Manga. However, all the shows are not available across the world due to licensing limitations. The service exceeded one million paid subscriptions in February 2017, subsequently it has reached 2 million paid subscriptions since 2019. In February 2021 the number of subscriptions exceeded 4 million users with more than 100 million users registered on its platform. Crunchyroll has released on Blu-ray/DVD some of the anime shows through its distribution partners. Viz Media in the US, Anime Limited in the UK which was called Funimation earlier.
Crunchyroll at a glance
|Industry||Production and distribution of licenses for anime, manga, drama, Japanese/East Asian cinema, home video and video game through video on demand|
|Founded||May 15, 2006|
|Founder||Kun Gao, Brandon Ooi, James Lin and Vu Nguyen|
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California, U.S.|
|Products||Anime, Manga, Event Organization, Mobile Game Publisher|
|Brands||Kazé, Anime on Demand, Anime Digital Network, Eye See Movies|
|Services||Video broadcasting, Online sales, Distribution of licensed series|
|Owner||Otter Media (2014–2021)|
Sony Pictures Television (2021–present)
|Matrix||Sony Pictures Entertainment|
|Restructuring||2008, 2014 and 2019|
|Users||120 million (2021)|
(5 million paying)
|Available languages||English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Arabic, Italian, Russian|
Origins and establishment
Crunchyroll started in 2006 as a for-profit streaming and uploading website related to East Asia and Japan. The company was initially established by employees of the site HotOrNot: Kun Gao, Brandon Ooi, James Lin and Vu Nguyen, It was a San Francisco-based photo rating site. With the site’s data and servers hosted on the same company where its founders worked. The site allowed any previously registered user to upload and share videos without requiring external servers or services. It also offered, from the beginning as an option, to donate $6 per month to offer an ad-free version of the site and higher quality video.
Some of the content hosted on Crunchyroll was at the time illicit East Asian fansubs or bootlegs of the official US anime versions. It was illegally hosted without the permission of the rights holders and even any responsible fansub team. However, it has adhered to the DMCA and removed copyrighted content when requested by the right holder. The page experienced an exponential increase in traffic and visits to the website, around 100 million visits in July 2007.
Investor investment and re-launch of the site
In late 2007, the company secured an equity investment of $4.05 million from Venrock Venture Capital. It became the company’s main investor and keeping one of the company’s creators, Kun Gao, as CEO of the company. The investment was criticized by anime distributors and licensees such as Bandai Entertainment and Funimation. Even though the site continued to allow users to upload illegal copies of licensed titles. Later, the Japanese company TV Tokyo, would join the company as a minority owner. It was in order to negotiate licenses that the channel originally broadcasts in Japan.
Likewise, Crunchyroll eventually began securing distribution deals with legal companies, including Gonzo, for a growing number of titles. On January 8, 2009, after announcing an agreement with TV Tokyo to host Naruto Shippuden episodes, the company stated that it was committed to removing all illegal material from its site, leaving only those with legal rights of distribution. The site was re-launched with a new design and removes all illegal or unlicensed content after such announcement.
In 2010, Crunchyroll announced that it had acquired the rights for a North American DVD, 5 Centimeters Per Second . This is Crunchyroll’s first licensed DVD release. Also, on March 26, TV Tokyo again provided an investment of 750 thousand dollars. Another investment for the same amount was made by the Japanese electronic book publisher Bitway in June of the same year. Said operation would be for the construction of a comic book distribution platform outside of Japan in the future. These investments would not result in any changes to corporate structure, strategic management or operations, according to the announcement.
Expansion, acquisitions, and brand consolidation
The first expansion of the site outside of North America began on April 13, 2012. This was with the launch of the site in Spanish for the entire Latin American region. The site for the region would offer 23 selected titles for both premium and free users (under certain limitations).
Partnerships with different companies continued on October 30, 2013. Crunchyroll began digitally distributing 12 different Kodansha manga titles, series like Shingeki no Kyojin and Fairy Tail. They were part of the manga that was initially available, through a section in the platform and only in English language.
In 2013 there was further shareholder changes in the company. The Chernin Group, from former News Corp. Chairman Peter Chernin, announced that it had acquired a majority stake in Crunchyroll. A person with knowledge of the transaction said that the acquisition price was close to $ 100 million. The Chernin Group said that Crunchyroll’s management at the time and investor TV Tokyo would retain a “significant” stake in the company.
On June 12, 2014, the company announced the acquisition of Redux, a company that offered video services through different platforms and smart devices. The acquisition served the purpose of improving its scope of video playback on different devices.
New corporate changes occured on April 22, 2014. The Chernin Group and AT&T informed the forming of a JV in order to invest and acquire over-the-top (OTT) video services. Both companies invested more than $500 million in funding for the company. The new company was called Otter Media and became the majority owner of Crunchyroll. On August 3, 2015, Variety reported that Otter Media will introduce Ellation, a new umbrella organization for its subscription video services, including Crunchyroll. Ellation’s offering consisted of VRV, which started in 2016, a platform for video streaming which targeted gamers, geeks, fantasy, lovers of comedy and technology.
On October 22, 2015, it was reported by Anime News Network that Crunchyroll has more than 700 thousand paid subscribers. Further, the company informed that Sumitomo Corporation and Crunchyroll had created a JV to invest and produce in anime productions.
On April 11, 2016, Kadokawa Corporation and Crunchyroll informed the formation of an alliance which is strategic in nature. This made Crunchyroll to get exclusive digital distribution rights throughout the world (excluding Asia). The rights was for Kadokawa’s anime titles in the coming year. It also gave Crunchyroll the right to co-finance Kadokawa anime titles to be produced in the future. On July 1, 2016, Crunchyroll announced plans to double down and release a series of series on home video.
Association with Funimation, owner control changes, and user growth
During and after a meeting at a conference in mid-2016, Kun Gao and Funimation‘s manager at the time, Gen Fukunaga, would collaborate to create “the ultimate fan experience”. Finally, on September 8 of the same year, Crunchyroll announced a partnership with Funimation. Through the partnership, the company would stream select Funimation titles on its streaming service. While Funimation will stream select Crunchyroll titles, as well as its upcoming dubbed content. In addition, Funimation and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment said they will act as distributors of the company’s home video catalog. This association was limited to the United States and Canada.
Significantly, at the end of 2016, the licenses for Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Dragon Ball Super, were acquired, in addition to broadcasting the Elfen Lied anime with dubbing for Latin America.
In February 2017, the company established the Crunchyroll Expo (CRX) anime convention with arrangement support from Left Field Media. Santa Clara Convention Center was the host for the initial expo from August 25 to 27. Team manager Dallas Middaugh finding that most of the ticket sales occurred during the ten days of the convention. Special invitees for the Expo included voice actors Shun Horie and Hiromi Igarashi, The Fairly OddParents creator Butch Hartman, illustrator Yoshitaka Amano, manga artist Kore Yamazakiand, figure skater Johnny Weir and author Keiichi Sigsawa.
Meanwhile the number of users would increase exponentially. On February 9, 2017, it was announced that Crunchyroll had reached one million paying subscribers. In order to continue expanding licenses on other platforms anime titles began to be distributed through Steam. It was where certain titles were offered with the purchase of episodes or complete seasons. However, due to internal and strategic decisions of the video game platform, the service is currently discontinued since the beginning of 2019.
In August 2017 it was announced that more anime series will enter its catalog. Including with different dubbing starting with Rokka no Yūsha, Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo and Schwarzes Marken which had its premiere in November 2017.
The making of the first original production was published on July 25, 2017, with the release of Children of Ether. It is a film in Ona format (a production variation in Ovas), whose production was commissioned by Crunchyroll itself. The film has been produced by Yapiko Animation which is a French Studio and directed by LeSean Thomas.
By November 4, 2017, a group of hackers managed to hijack their DNS on the official site for almost 6 hours. Users were redirected to a similar fake site that led them to download ransomware under the guise of “CrunchyViewer“. The parent company at the time, Ellation, filed a first information report against hackers.
At the beginning of 2018, the company made its foray into the mobile game market with the title DanMachi, in association with the developer WFS, Inc. Later more games would be launched within the platform.
In January 2018, the remaining shares (20%) of Crunchyroll was bought by Otter Media from TV Tokyo and other investors. In August 2018, AT&T acquired the remainder of Otter Media not already owned by The Chernin Group. The company and Crunchyroll were once part of WarnerMedia (formerly Time Warner, of which AT&T had also recently completed an acquisition).
The expansion and availability in other media would continue. On April 28, 2018, the broadcast of certain series would begin on the Brazilian channel Rede Brasil. In a block called Crunchyroll TV, becoming the first television block of the streaming service in all the world. Gaining even more notoriety because its launch was on an open television channel.
The Platform Expo would continue, taking place at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in 2018. Guests at the convention included voice actors Ryo Horikawa, Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii, Justin Briner, Clifford Chapin, Luci Christian and Colleen Clinkenbeard and the Darling in the Franxx staff.
In October 2018, the service announced an expansion to original content with the animated series High Guardian Spice produced by Ellation Studios. Subsequently, on October 18, 2018, the partnership had ended as a result of Sony Pictures Television’s acquisition of Funimation and AT&T ‘s acquisition of Crunchyroll’s parent company, Otter Media.
Company reorganization and new partnerships
On March 4, 2019, it was informed that Otter Media will come under Warner Brothers. This move was as part of a reorganization strategy. As a result of the same reorganization, the company and Crunchyroll became corporate sisters to American cable channel Cartoon Network and its late-night programming block Adult Swim. They have been known for their telecast of most of their anime under their Toonami brand. Due to a subsequent reorganization, Crunchyroll moved to WarnerMedia Entertainment (owner of networks such as TBS and TNT). This was in May 2019, so its COO could oversee an upcoming entertainment streaming service from the brand.
In pursuit of new partnerships, on July 3, 2019, Crunchyroll announced that they had partnered with Viz Media to distribute Crunchyroll licensed titles for home video and electronic sales in the United States and Canada.
While in content production, on July 20, 2019, independent Australian production company Glitch Productions announced that they had partnered with Crunchyroll. This was in order to produce their original YouTube series, Meta Runner, a series set within a futuristic society about a covert group to reveal actions of a certain corrupt company.
Further acquisitions were to be made in mid-2019. On September 6, Crunchyroll announced that it had become the majority investor in Viz Media Europe . The completion of the acquisition and deal was solidified on December 4, 2019. Thus bringing it into the process as a subsidiary and changing its name to Crunchyroll EMEA. John Easum became the director, who previously held the position of the presidency of Viz Media Europe.
For Crunchyroll Expo 2019, also held in San Jose, the premieres of the Black Fox movie and the Mob Psycho 100 II original animation video were announced. While Toei Animation organized a screening of the Dragon Ball Z: Bardock movies – Goku’s father and Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn. Among the invited guests were horror mangaka Junji Ito, 7/22 voice actors Sally Amaki, Kanae Shirosawa and Ruri Umino.
The writer of Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma Yūto Tsukuda and artist Shun Saeki and Zombie Land Saga staff members. The expo also included voice actors Asami Tano and Kaede Hondo, MAPPA CEO Manabu Ohtsuka and composer Yasuharu Takanashi. Rock band Flow, whose songs have appeared in several anime as opening themes, held a concert on August 30.
Sony acquisition of Crunchyroll
Due to the announced sale of companies within the multinational AT&T, derived from financial cloaking and debts incurred by the acquisition of Time Warner in 2018. On August 12, 2020, the web portal The Information reported that Sony Pictures Entertainment, the parent company of Funimation, was in talks to acquire Crunchyroll from WarnerMedia for $1.5 billion. According to Variety, the amount was reduced to $1 billion. Later, in October 2020, it was reported that Sony was in its final talks with AT&T to acquire the streaming service for more than 100 billion yen, roughly $957 million.
On December 9, 2020, Funimation and its owner Sony announced that they had reached an agreement with AT&T and WarnerMedia to acquire Crunchyroll for around $1.175 billion. This operation is considered a major consolidation of global anime distribution rights outside of East Asia. The process is still pending regulatory approvals and process closure.
On March 24, 2021, through The Information portal, it was reported that the United States Department of Justice would have intervened in this sale to extend the antitrust investigation. It is a process that could end up delaying it for another 6 months and even potentially canceling the sale acquisition. On August 9, 2021, Sony announced that it had completed the acquisition of Crunchyroll. Following the acquisition, Sony stated that they want to create a unified anime subscription experience using their existing anime businesses as soon as possible.
On March 1, 2022, it was announced that Funimation and Wakanim’s SVOD services would be consolidated on Crunchyroll. Also, Funimation Global Group, LLC. would be renamed Crunchyroll, LLC, and the Funimation branding would be phased out to move its content to Crunchyroll.
On March 11, 2022, Crunchyroll and Wakanim announced that they would be suspending their services in Russia due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On March 24, 2022, Crunchyroll announced that beginning with the spring 2022 season, a subscription would be required to view a new and continuous simulcast, and older titles appearing on the site prior to this season will remain free. It was also announced that the first three episodes of selected titles would be free one week after their premiere until May 31.
Operation and Business Model of Crunchyroll
Crunchyroll is partially an advertising (freemium) model, where a user can have access to limited content in exchange for ads that appear during the video. The platform also highlights paid subscriptions that allow advertising-free viewing of its entire catalog. Varying according to the user’s geolocation, some content is blocked depending on the country due to license restrictions. Eary access to episodes of new series broadcast simulcast with Japan (free users have to wait a week).
Originally, the service had two subscriptions called “Premium” and “Premium +”, whose differences lay in additional advantages in customer service. As of August 2020, the platform is reorganizing its subscriptions into three offers, “Fan” , “Mega Fan” and “Ultimate Fan“. The fan level matches the previous Premium, Mega Fan adds offline mode and simultaneous viewing of four devices. While the Ultimate Fan level expands viewing to 6 devices and includes more benefits in customer service.
Being a platform where the contents are broadcast mainly in video. The site was characterized by being one of those that continued to use the obsolete Abobe Flash player in recent years. Until September 2018 the platform was updated to an HTML5 viewer automatically.
Other services it provides are the sale of Manga and Anime – related merchandise or products on its own e – commerce channel. Viewing of Manga in virtual format available to English – language subscriber users.
Crunchyroll’s services also encompass licensing rights for theatrical, TV, home format and consumer products.
The main catalog of anime is available on its website as well as on various devices including: Blu-ray discs. It is also available on mobile devices such as iOS / iPadOS, Android and Windows Phone. Game consoles such as Xbox (Xbox 360, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S), PlayStation (PlayStation 3/4/5 and PlayStation Vita). Also available for Nintendo (Wii U and Nintendo Switch). It is also compatible with the operating systems of Windows and macOS for desktop and laptop devices.
It is also available on Smart TVs made by Samsung and Sony, as well as media players such as Apple TV, Roku, Google Chromecast. The services are available on Tizen OS, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV on both televisions and external media players such as Xiaomi Mi Box, S and the NVIDIA Shield TV, among others. The availability of content is through Premium payment plans as well as for free, with ads and availability restrictions.
Through association with certain networks or television stations in some countries, whether open or restricted, several series of the company have been licensed as part of a content expansion. The broadcasts are currently carried out in Brazil in the open signal channel Loading and in Chile by the pay signal ETC. At the regional level, in Latin America, the broadcast is on the Cartoon Network channel within a block of one hour of transmission at midnight: Toonami Powered by Crunchyroll.
The company has organized events and conventions. Crunchyroll Expo, a Manga and Anime convention since 2017, the organization includes guest characters and production staff. The Anime Awards, an event for nominations and awards for various anime productions, where the general public participates and votes through the web. Crunchyroll Movie Nights/KAZÉ Movie Nights, formerly known as Anime Screening Night. Exhibition and screening of movies, ovas, as well as full seasons of anime in different theaters and cinemas in North America, Germany, Austria and Moldova.
Anime Awards – Crunchyroll
Crunchyroll Expo (simplified to CRX) is an annual three-day anime convention held during August or September at the San José McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. The convention is hosted by anime licensor Crunchyroll and Reedpop.
The event itself offers sections for artists, a dealer room, cosplays, panels and video games. The disclosure of future titles to be issued on the platform is also carried out. Registration and information about the event is done through its website.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CRX was canceled for 2020, instead the expo was held online as a virtual event under the name Virtual Crunchyroll Anime Expo.
Being the largest co-producers of anime content worldwide, as mentioned by the current CEO of the company, Kun Gao. Even though anime titles were previously co-produced, on February 25, 2020, Crunchyroll announced a list of series under its Crunchyroll Originals label, marking the first time that this new label has been mentioned for series co-produced or directly produced by Crunchyroll. The company currently operates with different animation studios in Japan.
The following list will only include those that the company officially places under this label.
|Title||First Broadcast||Last Broadcast||Episodes||Remarks||Animation Studio|
|In/Spectre 2nd Season||October 2022||–||–||Sequel to In/Spectre.||Brain’s Base|
|High Guardian Spice||October 26, 2021||12||original story.||Crunchyroll Studios|
|Noblesse||October 6, 2020||December 30, 2020||13||Adaptation of the webtoon series written by Son Jo and illustrated by Lee Kwangsu.||Production I.G.|
|Tonikaku Kawaii||October 3, 2020||December 18, 2020||12||Manga adaptation written and illustrated by Kenjiro Hata.||Seven Arcs|
|Onyx Equinox||November 21, 2020||December 26, 2020||12||original story.||Crunchyroll Studios|
|Blade Runner: Black Lotus||November 13, 2021||February 5, 2022||13||Original story based on the Blade Runner franchise.|
Co-production with Adult Swim.
|Sola Digital Arts|
|Gibiate||July 15, 2020||September 30, 2020||12||original story.||lunch box,|
|The God of High School||July 6, 2020||September 28, 2020||13||Adaptation of Yongje Park’s webtoon series.||MAP|
|freakangels||January 27, 2022||9||Webtoon series adaptation by writer Warren Ellis and cartoonist Paul Duffield.||Crunchyroll Studios|
|In/Spectre||January 11, 2020||March 28, 2020||12||Adaptation of the light novel by Kyō Shirodaira.||Brain’s Base|
|ex arm||January 10, 2021||March 28, 2021||12||Manga adaptation written by HiRock and illustrated by Shinya Komi.||Visual Flight|
|Dr Ramune Mysterious Disease Specialist||January 9, 2021||March 27, 2021||12||Adaptation of the manga written and illustrated by Aho Toro.||platinum vision|
|So I’m a Spider, So What?||January 8, 2021||July 3, 2021||24||Adaptation of the light novel written by Okina Baba and illustrated by Tsukasa Kiryu.||Millepensee|
|Shenmue the Animation||February 6, 2022||–||13||Adaptation of the Shenmue video game series published by Sega.|
Co-production with Adult Swim
|Telecom Animation Film|
|Fena: Pirate Princess||August 14, 2021||October 23, 2021||12||original story.|
Co-production with Adult Swim .
|Tower of God||April 1, 2020||June 24, 2020||13||Webtoon series adaptation by Lee Jong-hui||Telecom Animation Film|
|Meiji Gekken: Swords & Guns (working title)||–||–||–||original story||Crunchyroll Studios|
|Tonikaku Kawaii 2nd Season||–||–||–||Sequel to Tonikaku Kawaii.||Seven Arcs|
- Crunchyroll EMEA
- Anime Digital Network
- Viz Media Switzerland
- AV Visionen
- Kazé Deutschland
- Crunchyroll Games, LLC
- Crunchyroll EMEA
Criticism and controversies on Crunchyroll
Censorship in China
Since 2016, behind the great firewall of mainland China, this site has also been affected. Because the Chinese government considered them a “threat”. Crunchyroll does not work in that country, however there are alternatives such as IQIYI and Tencent Video.
Videos uploaded on YouTube
Additionally, in March 2017, it received massive backlash from the community. Community members carefully analyzing encoding methods discovered that Crunchyroll-created videos with original editorial content are hosted on YouTube.
The videos feature various youtubers, talking about multiple topics, using Crunchyroll videos in the background. Users proved their accusations by posting comparison screenshots that clearly show “Anime Academy” and “Q Review” episodes with the YouTube UI, rather than the Crunchyroll UI.
The current subscription plans generated complaints against the company, since now you have to pay more for the same services. Additional features such as being able to watch anime offline were already demanded in advance.
Grand Alliance casting
In June 2020, Crunchyroll Games announced that the voice auditions for the mobile game Grand Alliance had been canceled. They will hire a studio to ensure proper and quality work. The call that was canceled had generated a lot of controversy because they would pay a dollar for each dialogue, so many voice and dubbing actors were against it.