Netflix is trying to become a dominant presence in the anime streaming space, but AT&T-owned WarnerMedia is leveraging its dedicated anime streaming service Crunchyroll to help sway subscribers over to HBO Max.
HBO Max subscribers will be able to stream 17 different anime series currently available on Crunchyroll, including Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-(Director’s Cut), and Keep Your Hands off Eizouken. Crunchyroll will curate new anime content for HBO Max subscribers every three months, according to WarnerMedia, with popular series Hunter x Hunter and Death Note coming to HBO Max later this year. Some titles, like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, also stream on Netflix. While HBO Max won’t be the exclusive home — shows will run on both HBO Max and Crunchyroll at the same time — subscribers will have more access to popular anime.
Although these are just a smattering of titles compared to the 1,000-plus series on Crunchyroll, the hope is to “introduce anime to a wider audience who appreciates compelling stories told through this dynamic medium,” according to Crunchyroll’s general manager, Joanne Waage.
It’s a win-win for the two streaming platforms, both owned by AT&T. If mainstream audiences subscribing to HBO Max develop an affinity for anime being provided through Crunchyroll, they could potentially sign up for the anime streaming service in addition to HBO. (Crunchyroll currently has more than 2 million paid subscribers.) HBO Max can also tout an impressive anime offering at launch, with a consistent funnel for future content. WarnerMedia will also use HBO Max as the exclusive home for Studio Ghibli’s films in the United States, as Netflix secured the international rights to the popular and critically acclaimed films.
Both Netflix and Amazon have spent millions of dollars investing in developing new original anime series and licensing top titles. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings expressed back in 2015 that anime was a core area Netflix wanted to invest in. In 2017, Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos told investors the streamer had “more than 30 original anime projects in various states of production these days.” That number has likely increased since then. Sony spent $143 million in 2017 to acquire a 95 percent stake in distributor Funimation, which runs the FunimationNow streaming service. WarnerMedia’s new CEO, Jason Kilar, understands the importance of anime as part of a broader streaming strategy — anime was reportedly one of the top performing genres at Hulu when Kilar was CEO, according to The Information.
“This WarnerMedia family collaboration is bringing together an incredible collection of content with a passionate fandom and HBO Max is tottemo ureshii to expand the reach of this inventive artistry,” Kevin Reilly, HBO Max’s chief content officer, said in a press release, using a popular Japanese expression for displaying joy and enthusiasm.
HBO Max’s ability to use Crunchyroll content is a perfect example of how HBO Max will borrow from all of WarnerMedia’s assets to try to secure subscribers. The service will also carry current and former HBO series (widely considered the heart of the streaming service), Warner Bros. movies, TBS and TNT original series, and some CW shows. WarnerMedia, like ViacomCBS (CBS All Access) and NBCUniversal (Peacock), has one of the largest collections of titles that HBO Max can borrow from to use for its own service.
Other anime series that will be available on HBO Max, and are currently on Crunchyroll, include Rurouni Kenshin, KONOSUBA -God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!, Bungo Stray Dogs, Berserk, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Kill la Kill, Your Lie in April, Erased, Kiznaiver, Schwarzes Marken, 91 Days, The Testament of Sister New Devil, and Rokka -Braves of the Six Flowers.
HBO Max launches on May 27th for $14.99 a month. WarnerMedia is currently offering incoming customers and some current HBO Now subscribers one year of HBO Max for just $11.99 a month.