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Sony Pictures buys distributor Funimation

Sony Pictures Television Networks has reached an agreement to acquire a “substantial” majority stake in Funimation Productions, in a deal that values the Japanese anime distributor at around US$150 million.

Andy KaplanFunimation, which sells Japanese content in the US, has a catalogue of toons that includes Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop and One Piece, and operates the FunimationNow SVOD service.

Andy Kaplan, president of worldwide networks at Sony Pictures Television, said the combined IP of Asian animation-focused kids channels Animax and Kids Station and Funimation “allows us to deliver the best anime to fans across all screens and platforms”.

Gen Fukunaga, CEO of Funimation, will retain a minority stake in the business and remain chief executive.

The news came as Sony reported its latest set of financials. The Sony Pictures business, based in LA, has seen a lift in revenue of 15% for its first financial quarter in 2017, due in part to its TV sales which have increased by 12%.

In the three months to June, Sony’s overall revenue increased to ¥1,858 billion (US$16.82 billion). Sony Pictures’ sales increased to ¥205 billion.

The increase in Pictures sales was primarily due to higher sales in television productions and media networks. This was partially offset by its sales in Film.

TV Productions sales increased “significantly” due to higher licensing revenue for US television series including The Last Tycoon and Better Call Saul. It received lower worldwide film revenues from the same quarter last year, which had benefited from The Angry Birds Movie.

Nonetheless this shift has meant that the operating loss for Pictures has decreased from ¥10.6 billion to ¥9.5 billion year-on-year.

Sony wrote down almost US$1 billion earlier this year as the result of the performance of Sony Pictures Entertainment. These latest results paint a brighter picture.

The news arrives after Sony recorded a decrease in sales and operating revenue for the end of its financial year in April by 6.2%. It received a revenue of ¥7,603 billion yen compared to ¥8,105 billion yen the previous year.

Due to its revenue jump for the first quarter of this year, Sony has revised its forecast for the year ending March 31, 2018. It is expecting revenues of ¥8,300 billion where it predicted ¥8,000 billion in April.