Sony sees streaming service Crunchyroll driving growth as anime goes global

A man wearing a protective mask amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak walks past a poster for an animated movie "Demon slayer" in front of a movie theatre in Tokyo, Japan, December 13, 2020. Picture taken December 13, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sony sees its anime streaming service Crunchyroll as a growth driver, the head of its movies business said on Thursday, as the group looks to ride the growth of anime outside Japan.

"Crunchyroll is going to be our primary growth driver at SPE over next few years," Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) CEO Tony Vinciquerra told a strategy briefing.

While the technology and entertainment conglomerate is known for its movies, games and music businesses, Sony is also an anime powerhouse with Aniplex, which made the "Demon Slayer" anime, and Crunchyroll, which has 13 million subscribers globally.

The spread of the internet and streaming has made anime accessible to a wider audience, with popular franchises increasingly being targeted by global entertainment companies.

The anime market is expected to roughly double to $60 billion by 2030 with Crunchyroll moving to expand in Southeast Asia and India through Amazon Channels, which allows users to access streaming services through Amazon's interface.

Sony does not have a general entertainment streaming service and has argued that its status as an independent content provider is a strength as technological change roils the industry.

Reuters reported earlier this month that Sony is interested in acquiring the assets of U.S. media company Paramount Global, which could boost its roster of franchises.

"Our strategy is to have more IP, more product, more library to sell," Vinciquerra said when asked about the investment strategy of the business.

Sony scrapped in January a planned merger with India's Zee Entertainment that would have created a $10 billion business.

"We are looking at some other options that may or may not come to (the) fore," Vinciquerra said, without providing details.

(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Jamie Freed)

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