I know you probably all heard the news by now. Or at least you noticed it when you opened the Crunchyroll release calendar. Today I’m going to talk a bit about what the implications of fusing the Crunchyroll and FUNimation libraries could be…
You all remember when Sony bought Crunchyroll a little while ago. It was pretty big news for all of us Western Otaku. For a while, we were all talking about it. Some people were happy thinking that it would lead to improvements across both platforms, others were much more pessimistic believing that it was heralding the end of the golden age of anime or something like that. And then…nothing happened.
At first, nothing at all happened. If it hadn’t been in the news, we wouldn’t have known. Then FUNimation’s player got a lot better. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with t but it did. And I was jazzed. Does anyone actually say jazzed… Now the player does this weird thing where it mutes every time a new episode starts. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s just me. But it’s still better than it was!
I had hopes that the acquisition meant that FUNimation and Crunchyroll’s libraries would merge in some way. But it didn’t look like that was likely to happen. I don’t really keep up to date with news of the anime industry. I try but somehow, I always end up being the last to know. So it came as a delightful surprise to me when I opened Crunchyroll on March 1t, and a whole slew of new anime had all of a sudden been added. I was…what’s another word for jazzed?
Of course, this piqued my curiosity and I quickly found out that Sony was finally consolidating the anime libraries to Crunchyroll. Good choice! It’s still the more popular platform and despite the improvement to the FUNimation player, Crunchyroll’s is still far superior.
I’m writing this on March 2nd and from what I have read so far the plan is that starting this spring, all new seasonal anime will be streaming on Crunchyroll exclusively and by the end of March the lion’s share of FUNimation’s library will be available there as well. The news I found said that 80% of all FUNimation titles will be moved over to Crunchyroll, essentially making FUNimation obsolete.
Personally, I will be waiting until the end of the month, maybe even a bit longer, to cancel my FUNimation account. I want to see what the 20% left will be and make sure to watch everything I want before cutting it off. But I’m generally happy about it. I like things to be orderly and it was getting a bit out of hand with like 6 streaming services.
But this latest move is bringing back up a lot of the questions we were having at the time of the acquisition. What does this mean for the consumer?
One of the biggest worries people were having was that this acquisition was going to give Sony a sort of monopoly of international anime distribution. And monopolies are bad. Now we could have a long discussion about whether monopolies are really as bad as people think or at least if they are bad for the reasons people think but let’s face it, this isn’t the place for serious discussion. And economics isn’t my area of expertise either.
However, I would like to suggest that Sony does have a lot of competition when it comes to international anime distribution and we shouldn’t worry about monopolies. It isn’t one and won’t be one soon. And I’m not talking about smaller 3rd party platforms either. On a completely direct level, I don’t know about you guys, but I find myself watching anime on Netflix on an increasingly regular basis. Not only Netflix originals, they are also really growing their library of classic titles. I’m watching Den-noh coil right now. It’s getting really interesting. And although Crunchyroll’s player and resolution are way better than FUNimation’s, it’s nowhere near as good as Netflix. And Netflix has a lot to offer beyond anime.
Now you might be thinking to yourself, pffth yeah maybe for the casual fan, but no true anime aficionado is going to be satisfied with Netflix’s puny anime library in the long run. I don’t know about that. That library is constantly growing and changing so it remains to be seen but there’s also the unofficial competition.
Let’s face it, it isn’t exactly hard to find sites with huge pirated anime libraries you can watch for free right now. I regularly see new blogs pop up on WordPress that advertise watching anime for free on this site or that. It’s not legal but it’s also readily accessible. And these sites aren’t bound by licensing limitations or censorship laws. In theory, they can distribute any and all anime to every country in the world. For free. Now that is some intense competition. You have to make sure your service has considerable added value when your consumers can easily get the same thing, for free.
Despite how positively gargantuan the anime market has gotten, it’s still nowhere near as profitable as it should be so even with control of the two largest international specialized streaming platforms, Sony has got to be feeling some pressure to perform.
And I think this is why we’re seeing this change now. Administratively, it’s bound to be a lot easier to oversee and invest in a single platform than in two separate ones with considerable overlap. And the advantage for the consumer is obvious.
As I’m writing this, Crunchyroll has surprisingly not announced a price hike. I would have figured it would be inevitable, so I won’t grumble if they do so in the near future. But for now, the biggest inconvenience is that folks that only had a FUNimation account will have to go over to Crunchyroll if they want to continue watching seasonal anime. I don’t think that Sony will be shutting the service down immediately but I think it’s pretty obvious that they won’t be putting too many resources into upkeeping it either.
However, for someone like me, that had both services already, it does seem like I can simply stop paying for one without losing anything. Which is pretty awesome. I also like the fact that I will once again be keeping the bulk of my watch list on a single service.
Mr. Sony, if you’re reading this, and I don’t see why you wouldn’t, please bring back the sorting option for Crunchyroll’s queue. I don’t know if you guys remember, but you used to be able to drag and drop titles in your Crunchyroll queue to whatever position you wanted. That functionality just mysteriously disappeared at some point, way before Sony was in the picture. And I’m still morning it. I use to create these great curated queues where I would know all the shows I was going to watch in advance and then have little groupings by category I could go into whenever the mood struck me. It’s a little thing but it made me really happy. Oh, and figure out your search. I often search the title of an anime and the word Crunchyroll in google to find a show instead of using Crunchyroll’s internal search. I hope it’s gotten better.
Sorry, I went on a tangent there. But these are just wish list items. It’s stuff we didn’t have before anyway. As it stands, it still seems like a great deal for us viewers. Almost too great a deal.
Maybe I’ve grown cynical but I’m sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s like everything is going too well. Prices aren’t rising out of control. We’re getting a big selection of diverse new shows each season. They haven’t dropped ecchi titles like some people feared. Heck, the most popular anime this season is an ecchi. It was the same last season as well. I’m not seeing the direct downsides yet and that makes me a little nervous.
Oh well, I guess I’ll enjoy the good times while they last! Do you guys have any thoughts on Sony’s handling of FUNimation and Crunchyroll so far? Is there more to the story that I missed? Do Crunchyroll’s updated terms of service state that they own my first-born son now? I might still consider it…