Chernin Group Buys Crunchyroll, Will Expand Video Site Beyond Anime

/ Dec 2, 2013

When Hulu was put up for sale earlier this year — the second time it had been on the shopping block in the past three years — one of the suitors for the online video service was The Chernin Group, former News Corp. COO Peter Chernin’s media and investment firm. TCG’s interest in Hulu was said to be very high, which wasn’t all that surprising considering the fact that Chernin was a huge proponent of Hulu during his time at News Corp.

Unfortunately for Chernin, Hulu’s owners ultimately decided not to sell the video company — again for the second time in three years. But that hasn’t seemed to stop TCG from pursuing its interests in online video. Today, the firm confirmed that it has acquired Japanese online video company, Crunchyroll. Reports surfaced last month indicating that TCG was close to taking a majority stake in the site.

Crunchyroll is an online video site focusing exclusively on Asian programming — primarily Japanese anime but also some Korean dramas and other live-action content. The site offers more than 25,000 episodes of new and library content, available in an ad-supported format as well as via a subscription VOD service. With a reach that extends across 160 countries and various internet-connected devices, Crunchyroll has built a sizable following on the web. In late October, the site reportedly had more than 200,000 subscribers. In today’s announcement, while not specifying the exact size of Crunchyroll’s audience, TCG says the site has more than doubled its subscriber base in the past year.

For The Chernin Group, this acquisition looks to be a major step in developing a premium online video platform similar to the one it lost out on — Hulu. In the announcement, TCG says it will continue to invest in Crunchyroll’s anime business, but will also use the site as a platform to launch new, non-anime channels across multiple genres.

Chernin echoed these expansions plans via a statement: “Our plan is to continue to grow the anime vertical as well as launch new channels in different genres. Online video is growing faster than any other sector within media, and we feel that with Crunchyroll, we have a fantastic, anchor platform.”

It’s unclear, at least initially, what type of other content Crunchyroll will offer — if the site will look to target other niche audiences or license more mainstream programming. Obviously the latter would require a big financial investment from TCG. But then again, the firm was willing to begin its bid for Hulu at $500 million (with a promise to pay more depending on content licenses).

That’s not to say TCG will invest as much into Crunchyroll. But Chernin’s interest in the online video business is extremely high — TCG is also an investor in a couple of YouTube multi-channel networks, Fullscreen and Base79. So don’t be too surprised if the firm puts some real muscle behind the video site, especially as it expands beyond just anime content.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. TV Tokyo is the other investor in Crunchyroll.

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