How Japan creates a growing empire of characters

Hong Kong (CNN Business)Anime fans are about to get more of their favorite shows from one place.

AT&T (T) announced Wednesday that it had agreed to sell Crunchyroll for nearly $1.2 billion to Funimation, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Aniplex, a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment.
The move will allow Sony (SNE) to bring together two of the world’s largest collections of anime.

    Funimation has a library of more than 700 anime series and 13,000 hours of content, which are shown in nearly 50 countries. The business also reaches fans by distributing films and selling collectibles.
    Crunchyroll is a direct-to-consumer anime service based in San Francisco, with users in more than 200 countries. The platform was founded in 2006, and has since racked up more than 3 million paid subscribers and 90 million registered users.

    Crunchyroll is part of AT&T’s WarnerMedia, which is also CNN’s parent company. The brand offers anime streaming services, mobile games, events and branded retail goods.
    “We are proud to bring Crunchyroll into the Sony family,” Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to leverage the power of creativity and technology to succeed in this rapidly growing segment of entertainment.”
    The deal is all-cash, and will need to clear regulatory approvals. It also comes as AT&T has announced a renewed focus on saving cash amid the coronavirus pandemic.
    This week, CEO John Stankey told shareholders that he would work to shore up the company’s balance sheet and maintain its dividend going into the new year.
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    He said that the company was on track to maintain at least $26 billion in free cash flow this year — a figure that likely won’t change in 2021.
    “Our job as a management team is to bring back the proof points that we can execute in the market and drive the level of returns in … focus areas,” Stankey said at a UBS investor conference.
    AT&T has placed significant emphasis this year on the company’s flagship streaming service, HBO Max, as well as the rollout of 5G wireless technology in the United States.

      Stankey said the company still had “opportunities to do some things around rejiggering our portfolio that can accelerate some of that restructuring of the balance sheet, and give us some flexibility.”
      — Clare Duffy contributed to this report.
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