Chernin Group Acquires Stake in Anime-Streaming Website

Chernin Group, led by former News Corp. executive Peter Chernin, acquired a majority stake in Crunchyroll Inc., adding to a portfolio of Web companies with a site that streams Japanese cartoons.

Crunchyroll, founded in 2007 and based in San Francisco, lets customers view free videos and offers subscriptions that start at $6.95 per month for expanded programming. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. The company’s senior management will keep a “significant” stake along with TV Tokyo, an existing investor, according to a statement yesterday.

“The Crunchyroll founders and senior management team have accomplished two incredible things,” Chernin said in the statement. “One, they have built one of the leading online video companies in the industry. And, two they have created the best and largest community for anime video in the world.”

The investment comes as Hollywood is increasingly focused on video-streaming services as a replacement for declining DVD sales and as a bet on the future growth of Internet viewing. Walt Disney Co. said last month it was creating original Marvel television shows for Netflix Inc., while DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. bought teen YouTube network AwesomenessTV in May.

Crunchyroll provides more than 25,000 episodes and 15,000 hours of licensed content from Asian media producers that’s translated into multiple languages. The investment lets Crunchyroll provide a better experience for users and anime producers, the companies said.

Merchandise Sales

Crunchyroll has expanded its business to include sales of merchandise based on the characters and has added digital downloads of manga, or Japanese comic books, Jesse Jacobs, president of the Chernin Group, said yesterday in a telephone interview. Jacobs said he can foresee Crunchyroll adding more content to its platform and, unlike television networks, the business doesn’t need to negotiate with cable-TV providers.

“You have infinite shelf space,” Jacobs said. “We’re still in the early stages of this.”

Chernin Group, founded in 2010 and based in Los Angeles, produces movies and television shows and has invested in digital media companies such as Pandora Media Inc. and Tumblr Inc. Its investors include Providence Equity Partners LLC and Qatar Holding LLC.

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