One of the biggest anime news stories so far this year was Sony's purchase of streaming giant Crunchyroll. Buying the company for $1.2 billion, the move made Sony the worldwide leader in the anime market being that they also own Aniplex, Funimation, and various companies in other parts of the world including in western and eastern Europe and Australia. The move was also met with some trepidation from many anime fans who were afraid that owning so many pieces of the puzzle would create a monopoly on the market for Sony. Luckily for those fans, the US Justice Department feels the same way and has launched an investigation into the sale.
The official name for what the Justice Department is doing is extending their antitrust review to the sale and seeks to find out if this deal would give Sony outright dominance in an already surging anime market and limit the number of outlets that overseas creators would have to sell their products in the United States. The review will, in the best-case scenario, delay the deal by several months and, in the worst case, possibly kill the deal entirely by suing to block it should they decide to rule against Sony.
In a statement to the Justice Department, Sony claims that Crunchyroll and Funimation are only two of many outlets available to overseas creators that include HIDIVE, Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu.
Despite the pandemic putting a damper on many production schedules in Japan causing multiple series to be delayed for months (this was particularly true in the summer and fall seasons), Japan released almost 140 television anime series last year which many fans around the world eagerly consumed from home while they were stuck in quarantine.
It's hard to see this investigation as anything but a good thing. While it might sound like a good idea for Sony to have their fingers in so many pies so that they can consolidate content and keep both Funimation's and Crunchyroll's libraries stocked full of that sweet, sweet content that we all love to consume, a lack of competition does no one any favors. Without direct competition, there is no motivation to improve and stay above the other outlets. There is no drive to improve the status quo, which only hurts businesses on both sides of the Pacific ocean.
This will be an interesting story to keep your eyes on throughout the rest of 2021. Stay tuned to EpicStream for more details on this story as they break onto the internet.