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Sony Pays $143 Million for 'Dragon Ball Z' Distributor Funimation

Sony Corp. acquired Funimation Productions Ltd., the U.S. distributor of “Dragon Ball Z” and other Japanese cartoons, to expand its offering of anime around the world.

Sony Pictures Television Networks, the Culver City, California-based unit of the Japanese consumer electronics group, paid $143 million for a 95 percent stake in Funimation, Sony said in a statement and regulatory filing Monday. Bloomberg reported in May that the anime importer was being eyed by Sony and Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures.

“Sony’s networks have been major players in the anime space for nearly two decades, and in more recent years we have rapidly increased our networks’ over-the-top and digital offerings to consumers,” Andy Kaplan, president of worldwide networks for Sony Pictures Television, said in a statement.

Funimation, based in Flower Mound, Texas, licenses and distributes Japanese anime content in the U.S., and operates the subscription streaming service FunimationNOW. Founder Gen Fukunaga will remain chief executive officer and retain a minority stake. Through the deal, Sony is buying out investors including John Kuelbs, chairman of Funimation.

In addition to “Dragon Ball Z,” the distributor’s anime catalog includes “Cowboy Bebop,” “One Piece,” “My Hero Academia” and “Attack on Titan.” Funimation is also the U.S. distributor of films like the Japanese animated feature “Your Name,” which has generated $354 million in theaters worldwide since its April release.

The acquisition, combined with anime TV channels Animax and Kids Station, will help Sony reach more fans in the niche animation genre, Kaplan said. Animax operates in 23 countries including Japan.

Sony said the transaction won’t have a material effect on its financial results for the current fiscal year.

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