AT&T sold the subscription anime streaming service Crunchyroll to American anime distributor Funimation for nearly $ 1.2 billion as the media company wants to outsource or rethink smaller streaming assets in order to build the all-purpose streamer HBO Max double.

The deal, announced on Wednesday evening, will take Funimation, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment subsidiary Aniplex, a step further in the direct-to-consumer streaming niche. Crunchyroll has more than 3 million subscribers worldwide who pay for original and library programming, and the service has 90 million registered users worldwide who program, attend events, and access content such as mobile games and manga.

With the sale, WarnerMedia will also get a big cash injection as it plans to invest heavily in young streamer HBO Max, which reached nearly 12.6 million active users this week and aims to reach a broad user base with the release of Warner Bros. ‘entire 2021 film simultaneously in cinemas and on HBO max.

“The Crunchyroll team has done an exceptional job not only to grow the Crunchyroll brand, but also to build a passionate community of anime fans. Crunchyroll’s success is a direct result of the company’s culture and dedication to its fans, ”Tony Goncalves, WarnerMedia’s chief revenue officer, said in a statement. “By combining it with Funimation, they will continue to have a global community and offer more anime to more people. I am incredibly proud of the Crunchyroll team and what they have achieved in digital media in such a short amount of time. You have created a continuous global ecosystem for this incredible art form. “

Media companies like WarnerMedia have reevaluated their smaller streaming assets – and in some cases tried to outsource them – and instead focused on building more general streamers. WarnerMedia has already chosen the Sunset Targeted Streamer DC Universe and moved its original shows to the HBO Max platform. Other companies like AMC Networks are taking a targeted streamer approach rather than trying to build a universal Netflix competitor.

For Sony, the deal expands the company’s leverage in the overseas anime market, which has widespread appeal. Sony has already made advances in anime production and has been buying up anime streamers and distributors around the world in recent years.

“We are proud to add Crunchyroll to the Sony family,” said Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, in a statement. “Through Funimation and our great partners at Aniplex and Sony Music Entertainment Japan, we have a deep understanding of this global art form and are well positioned to bring great content to audiences around the world. Together with Crunchyroll we will create the best possible experience for fans and greater opportunity for creators, producers and publishers in Japan and elsewhere. Funimation has been doing this for over 25 years and we look forward to continuing to harness the power of creativity and technology to thrive in this rapidly growing segment of entertainment. “

While WarnerMedia is outsourcing Crunchyroll, other services are expanding their investment in anime programming. Netflix, which says more than 100 million households around the world saw at least one anime title between October 2019 and September 2020, has invested in creating more original anime series like The Great Pretender while licensing popular programs like The Seven Deadly sins.