Deeper Dive—AT&T has extra SVOD gems in Crunchyroll and VRV

Crunchyroll mascot Hime. (Crunchyroll)

AT&T is not wanting for successful streaming video services.

Before the $85 billion Time Warner acquisition, the company already had one of the fastest-growing virtual MVPDs in DirecTV Now. After the deal, AT&T has HBO Now, the upcoming B/R Live and DC Universe, FilmStruck, Boomerang, DramaFever and WatchTV.

But now, after taking full ownership of Otter Media, AT&T has another valuable set of streaming video properties in Ellation and its platforms Crunchyroll and VRV.

Crunchyroll, an SVOD focused on Anime, has more than 40 million registered users and more than 1 million subscribers. VRV, an SVOD aggregator that curates content from channels like Funimation and Rooster Teeth, has more than 3 million registered users and more than 1 million monthly active users.

Both of those services could be hitting new growth strides in the very near future.

This week, Ellation announced a new original content initiative for both Crunchyroll and VRV, complete with two new production facilities in Tokyo and Burbank, California, with about 75 people working across both facilities.

The first Crunchyroll original series is “High Guardian Spice,” an animated series about four girls who attend High Guardian Academy to learn to battle and use sorcery. In addition to appearing on its own app, Crunchyroll’s content will live on the service’s dedicated channel on VRV.

Margaret Dean, former general manager of Stoopid Buddy Stoodios and current president of Women in Animation, was named head of studio for the new Ellation’s new original content division.

Dean said that the new original content strategy for Ellation is a natural evolution of the business, which has previously licensed and co-produced content. She wouldn’t say just how many new original series are in the pipeline but she did say that both facilities are “very busy with different series” and that subscribers can expect each series to be anime-inspired, come from a global set of creators, and have its own distinct genre and feel.

Dean said that Ellation is already well set up to tackle a growing amount of original content output.

“We will handle all aspects of the production process. Like most production entities, we will partner with other companies and talent to make our shows—that will vary from project to project, but we have the capabilities to produce from concept through distribution,” Dean said.

When asked if Ellation would consider licensing its content to other distributors or producing for third-party services, Dean said it’s still very early days and that Ellation is focused on “growing Crunchyroll and VRV to be everything to someone, so we are creating all our Originals with our community in mind.”

Original content has helped lots of other SVODs grow and, as former Otter Media joint venture partner Peter Chernin pointed out, Crunchyroll, VRV and the rest of Otter Media now get the full force of AT&T’s networks and data for fueling growth.

“With AT&T’s direct-to-consumer relationships, vast data and varied content, I believe they can accelerate Otter’s growth. The combination with WarnerMedia will create a new-era media company, serving customers with every type of content delivered through every possible distribution channel,” Chernin said in a statement.

In terms of any impact from AT&T taking full control of Otter Media, Dean said Ellation’s parent company is on board with the push for originals.

“We’re continuing to do what we do today—create experiences for communities of fans to connect through content. Otter has been supportive of our plans and we are excited to share more soon, both about ‘High Guardian Spice’ and the rest of our slate,” Dean said.