In 2006, the North American anime industry burned to the ground. Standing on the ashes was Funimation, the stalwart distributor best known for bringing for bringing perennial hit Dragon Ball Z to the West. Fast-forward eleven years, and anime is doing better in America that it arguably ever has. Funimation still sits at the top, with staying power far greater than ever anticipated. That staying power is starting to attract a number of high-profile companies – chiefly Universal and Sony.
As per Bloomberg, Funimation has received several acquisition offers from a number of large media companies. In an official statement, however, it appears that the company isn’t currently interested in being acquired.
“The Funimation management team is more immediately focused on continuing to create compelling experiences for anime fans through physical, digital/streaming and theatrical efforts with goals of continuing to expand globally and maximizing shareholder value,” the statement read.
The intent behind this statement is pretty clear. Funimation is focused first and foremost on the industry they’re sitting at the top of, and don’t want to put that at risk by being taken into a large company.
But why, exactly, would Sony and Universal have an interest in Funimation? The answer’s simpler than one might imagine, and it basically boils down to brand loyalty. The home video market is hemorrhaging money, in many capacities, but don’t tell Funimation. Since 2013, they’ve experienced double-digit growth in both their digital and physical sales. That growth has happened at a rate of ten percent per year since then, with an annual gross of around $100 million. They know how to offer something that other, bigger companies don’t and can’t. On paper, this expertise looks like a valuable asset.
That said, there’s something a company like Sony or Universal would be ignoring when looking at just the numbers. Funimation is in the anime business, and in the anime business, selling overpriced trinkets is the name of the game. Anime fandom is practically built around selling expensive collector’s sets and ludicrously expensive hunks of plastic. There’s a kind of slavish devotion to the medium that doesn’t really exist outside of anime fandom, with the exception of perhaps American comics. This kind of dedication doesn’t translate to selling copies of large Hollywood blockbusters. At least, not yet.
Still, one does wonder if Funimation will take a company up on the offer. After all, they owe part of their current success to Universal – the media giant has home video distribution rights to Funimation’s output, and even relied on them to get licenses for shows like Serial Experiments Lain and Tenchi Muyo!. They’re still an anomaly in an industry that’s had to make a lot of changes to maintain relevance, and this writer suspects that alone is enough reason for interested parties to keep an eye on the house that Dragon Ball built.