Crunchyroll Might Get Sold to Sony — Wait, What?

Screenshot: HBO Max
Screenshot: HBO Max

Just months after launching a tentpole service that touts Crunchyroll as one of its premium offerings, AT&T may be exploring a sale of the anime streaming property.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Information reported Wednesday that AT&T is looking to sell Crunchyroll to Sony — a deal that’s reportedly being held up by AT&T’s exceptionally high asking price of $US1.5 ($2) billion. The report follows an earlier article from the Information published in May that such a sale was being explored. It’s a deal that to some degree makes sense, given AT&T’s astronomical debt load. But it’s unclear what this would mean for its crown jewel, the HBO Max service it launched in May — which relies on Crunchyroll for some content.

Both AT&T and Sony declined to comment on the rumoured deal when reached for comment on Wednesday.

According to the Information, AT&T is looking to offload non-core properties to offset some of its substantial debt. In June, CNBC reported that AT&T was considering a sale of its Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment gaming division, possibly for as much as $US4 ($6) billion. The Information cited the company’s debt sum at around $US151 ($211) billion. Anything helps, I guess.

Like another standalone streaming property that’s awkwardly bundled into HBO Max’s overstuffed service, DC Universe, Crunchyroll is offered as a service by itself. Somewhat confusingly, you can pay $US8 ($11) per month for just the anime stuff, or you can get some of Crunchyroll through the $US15 ($21)-per-month HBO Max. Sure, HBO Max will still have plenty of other content left over from WarnerMedia — even other anime — and it’s probably safe to assume that axing the property from the brand identity crisis that is HBO Max will not kill off a significant number of its overall subscribers.

But it does seem odd that a company would tout Crunchyroll as a perk of the service only to cut it entirely just months after launch. I’m no chief executive, but it doesn’t take a wizard to figure out that this does not look especially great for AT&T, especially on the heels of the bloodbath at DC Comics. By all indications, this is a company in crisis mode.