Former piracy site Crunchyroll cashes in on anime’s global appeal

When top anime streaming platform Crunchyroll was first gaining popularity as a pirated-video site in the mid-2000s, Japanese animation was considered a niche form of entertainment, appealing mainly to enthusiasts known as otaku. Today, it’s a $20 billion (about ¥2.75 trillion) industry spanning streaming, games and merchandise, and the company’s hit series, such as One Piece and Demon Slayer, have drawn millions of U.S.- and European-based subscribers.

Crunchyroll, now owned by Sony Group Corp., is setting its sights on India as a major growth market — one that could help the industry further expand from a made-in-Japan subculture to a mainstream and global phenomenon.

The company, founded in 2006 by graduates of the University of California at Berkeley, started off as an anime-sharing site. It eventually began streaming only legitimate content, helped by investment from venture capitalists including former News Corp. President Peter Chernin and ownership by AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia. Now the largest anime-dedicated streaming platform in the world, it was bought by Sony in a $1.2 billion (about ¥165 billion) deal announced in 2020.

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