Crunchyroll launches FAST channel as viewership growth continues

Crunchyroll this week launched a linear free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channel in the U.S, as the Sony-owned anime streaming service continues to attract viewers.

According to preliminary Animeasure 2023 data from Interpret shared with StreamTV Insider, Crunchyroll’s U.S. viewership growth trend has not let up since the research firm started tracking in 2020, and this move may further extend their reach.

Crunchyroll and the Game Show Network (GSN) — another Sony-owned company — are collaborating for the new channel, and it will be available on several FAST platforms in the U.S. including Amazon Freevee, The Roku Channel, Vizio’s WatchFree+ and LG Channels.

Crunchyroll saw a swift uptick in subscribers after it was sold by AT&T to Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2020 for $1.175 billion — combining it with Funimation, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. and Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) subsidiary Aniplex. Not long after the announced deal, the subscription surpassed 4 million subscribers and over 100 million registered users, just six months after it had rolled over the 3 million mark. By August of 2021 when Sony closed the deal, that number broke 5 million subscribers and over 120 million registered users.

According to Sony’s 2022 fiscal report, that uptick has nearly doubled to 10.7 million as of the end of March this year (though it did not include the number of registered users).

Last year, around the same time it topped 100 million app downloads, Crunchyroll made the contrarian move to lower fees for its premium SVOD service in nearly 100 countries just as many other streaming services were doing the opposite.

While some of the cuts were as little as £2 per month (U.K.), areas like India saw a dramatic drop from $10 USD to 99 Indian Rupees (around $1.25 at the time). However, Interpret VP Brett Sappington and lead anime analyst John McCallum explained, in a separate discussion with StreamTV Insider at the time, that those lowered prices were largely where the Funimation acquisition already added reach. Several of its most lucrative markets did not see price drops. Sappington noted that the subscription changes were a push to convert viewers of the ad-supported service to paying customers.

Regarding the recent FAST move, McCallum told StreamTV over email that many potential viewers may be drawn to the 24/7 anime channel for classic shows like “Code Geass” but end up discovering newer titles.

“Given their reputable studios, this platform might amplify their reach. Moreover, the channel's offerings seem to cater to diversified target demographics,” he added.