Anime subscription streaming service Crunchyroll surpassed a new threshold for app downloads, hitting the 100 million mark, according to app download tracker data.ai (formerly App Annie).
Crunchyroll reached 100 million in cumulative downloads across iOS and Google Play just last week, data.ai reported. According to the data company, from January to May 2022 Crunchyroll reached 20.9 million average monthly users. January 2021 was the service’s strongest app download month to-date, reaching an all-time high of 3.6 million downloads – versus 977,000 in January 2020.
Crunchyroll appears to be attracting international app downloads alongside U.S. interest, with the U.S. accounting for less than a quarter (21%) of worldwide downloads.
As of August 2021 (when Sony closed its purchase of Crunchyroll from AT&T for $1.17 billion), the service had passed 5 million subscribers and 120 million registered users.
The streaming service is shoring up its content offering with new additions from Funimation, as the Sony-owned brand works to combine programming from both services under the Crunchyroll umbrella (along with subsidiary Wakanim and Crunchyroll’s VRV) for one anime-focused offering.
While big players like Netflix and Disney+ are rolling out ad-supported tiers for their respective streaming services this year, Crunchyroll has notably taken a different approach – announcing plans earlier this year to phase out an ad-supported option for access to new releases. In March it disclosed that for new and continuing simulcasts starting with Spring 2022, viewers would need a premium monthly or annual subscription. Users can still access all previously released episodes and the existing Crunchyroll library at no cost, but new episodes of new and continuing series won’t be available as a free ad-supported viewing option.
It’s a move that research and analysis firm Interpret took to signal the service’s market confidence and less concern on Crunchyroll’s part about more general platforms taking an interest in anime genres.
“While AMC, Netflix, and Disney have all made major moves into the anime space recently, the elimination of an ad-supported tier suggests that Crunchyroll is still quite confident in its competitive positioning, and is not worried about ceding viewers to these later-to-arrive, more generalist platforms,” wrote Interpret in an April 13 blog.
An ad-supported tier is a great way to expand the user base, Interpret noted, “but if growth is not an issue it may be unnecessary.”
And while anime is a targeted genre, the firm noted continued global anime viewership growth is expected to naturally drive more subscribers to Crunchyroll.
“As viewership continues to rise, Crunchyroll’s profile will rise with it, mitigating the risk of it getting relegated to ‘niche status’,” Interpret continued.
Recent data by Hub Entertainment Research adds credence to the idea that consumers won’t mind shelling out subscription fees for Crunchyroll, as both it and Funimation rank among subscription services most likely to be considered “must-haves” by fans. The survey found 67% of Crunchyroll users rank the service as one their household couldn’t do without, with 33% considering a “nice-to-have.” And 65% put Funimation in the “must-have” category, while 33% said that while they’d miss it, could do without.
The genre-specific streaming services ranked alongside general audience heavy hitters on the must-have list like Netflix and YouTube.
“It’s exciting to see the loyalty that special interest or niche platforms engender,” said Mike Durange, senior consultant to Hub, also an author of the study. “While they don’t reach as many people as broader offerings, by providing something there’s no simple substitute for, they’re perceived as invaluable to their users.”
As Crunchyroll plans to scale up its direct-to-consumer business globally, it’s tapped Google as a strategic technology partner to strengthen flexibility and audience experiences. That includes CDN Media tools, Google Cloud to improve UX and content personalization with AI/ML; broad distribution via Google Play across devices; and Google advertising tools, among others.