Just months after launching a tentpole service that touts Crunchyroll as one of its premium offerings, AT&T may be exploring a sale of the anime streaming property.
Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Information reported Wednesday that AT&T is looking to sell Crunchyroll to Sony—a deal that’s reportedly being held up by AT&T’s exceptionally high asking price of $1.5 billion. The report follows an earlier article from the Information published in May that such a sale was being explored. It’s a deal that to some degree makes sense, given AT&T’s astronomical debt load. But it’s unclear what this would mean for its crown jewel, the HBO Max service it launched in May—which relies on Crunchyroll for some content.
Both AT&T and Sony declined to comment on the rumored deal when reached for comment on Wednesday.
According to the Information, AT&T is looking to offload non-core properties to offset some of its substantial debt. In June, CNBC reported that AT&T was considering a sale of its Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment gaming division, possibly for as much as $4 billion. The Information cited the company’s debt sum at around $151 billion. Anything helps, I guess.
Like another standalone streaming property that’s awkwardly bundled into HBO Max’s overstuffed service, DC Universe, Crunchyroll is offered as a service by itself. Somewhat confusingly, you can pay $8 per month for just the anime stuff, or you can get some of Crunchyroll through the $15-per-month HBO Max. Sure, HBO Max will still have plenty of other content left over from WarnerMedia—even other anime—and it’s probably safe to assume that axing the property from the brand identity crisis that is HBO Max will not kill off a significant number of its overall subscribers.
But it does seem odd that a company would tout Crunchyroll as a perk of the service only to cut it entirely just months after launch. I’m no chief executive, but it doesn’t take a wizard to figure out that this does not look especially great for AT&T, especially on the heels of the bloodbath at DC Comics. By all indications, this is a company in crisis mode.