John Leonhardt, Head of Consumer Products at Crunchyroll Crunchyroll spoke to Total Licensing about the history of the company, its 360
approach and the magnitude of its offering
Could you outline the business model behind Crunchyroll?
Crunchyroll is the world’s most popular anime brand and we operate both a subscription and ad-supported business model. If fans sign up for a premium subscription, they can enjoy unlimited ad-free anime and access to our simulcast series day and date with the premiere in Japan. Our free option comes with unlimited anime with select ad breaks.
In addition to streaming, we also operate a full 360-degree business around our community’s favorite series through events like Crunchyroll Expo, our flagship anime convention, and Crunchyroll Movie Night, which brings exclusive content to fans in theatres across the country, Crunchyroll Games, which offers fans a selection of anime mobile games to enjoy on the go, the Crunchyroll Store, social media, news and more.
You work with hundreds of brands and have your own expo – what was the history behind the company?
Crunchyroll was founded in 2006 by Kun Gao as a community and user-generated video sharing site, to allow fans to share content that was difficult to access in the U.S. Crunchyroll became a fully-licensed operation with the simulcast launch of “Naruto Shippuden” from TV Tokyo.
Since then, we’ve opened offices around the world, launched experiential events for fans like the Anime Awards, our yearly celebration of the best and brightest in Japanese animation, and Crunchyroll Expo, our yearly anime convention. We operate in more than 220 countries and territories, and now have more than 2 million subscribers, 50 million registered users, and 30 million fans across social channels.
Last year, we became a part of the WarnerMedia Entertainment portfolio, enabling us to work more closely with sister-brands such as Adult Swim, and we closed our majority acquisition of VIZ Media Europe Group, one of Europe’s most established licensors and distributors of Japanese animation, merging our brand and global platform with VIZ Media Europe Group’s EMEA-wide network of partners, distributors, and licensees.
We are very much looking forward to everything 2020 has in store for our brand!
Do you operate a 360-degree approach to your brands?
Yes, Crunchyroll operates a 360-degree approach to our brand and the series our fans love, beyond just streaming. We know fans want more than just a straight content experience, they want to be in community with other passionate fans. To ensure Crunchyroll is the best home for anime, we offer:
• Content – Crunchyroll has the world’s largest collection of anime with more than 1000 titles and 30,000 episodes of content for our community to enjoy, all simultaneously translated in 8 languages.
• Events – We offer fans Crunchyroll Expo, our yearly anime convention in San Jose, Crunchyroll Movie Night, the Anime Awards and more than a dozen experiences at other fan conventions in the US, in addition to the fan events we hold around the world.
• Social Media – We have more than 30 million fans across social media, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
• News – Crunchyroll News is one of the top anime news destinations, providing fans with up to date info on their favorite series.
• Merchandise – We work with more than 100 licensees across categories to ensure our community has the merchandise, apparel, home goods and more to display their love of anime and enjoy their favorite series where ever they go.
• Crunchyroll Games –
Crunchyroll Games is our interactive division, and currently offers seven mobile games for fans to enjoy across a variety of series.
How do you find the licensing industry, in general, given changes over the last few years in retail, tech etc?
As referenced in your question, the licensing industry has evolved significantly over the last few years in a variety of ways that, for the most part, has benefited the unique fan offerings from Crunchyroll consumer products. Fans are increasingly seeking merchandise from the shows they are most passionate about and the growth of ecommerce gives fans a platform to find the products that bring them joy. Traditional retail over the same period of time has recognized that anime has a growing fan base and to attract that customer they need a robust portfolio of anime properties. Crunchyroll continues to be well positioned for both