How Crunchyroll continues to thrive in a crowded content space: an interview with founder Kun Gao

Way before endless content options became the norm, Crunchyroll found a way to stand out: focus on a “niche” genre (which is actually huge), and superserve them. Anime and manga fans know that Crunchyroll is the best destination to access their favorite shows and discover new ones.

The strategy has paid off for Crunchyroll, with its SVOD service recently reaching one million paid subscribers. And, in addition to the content, Crunchyroll has also made two successful forays into the events space, launching both the Anime Awards and the Crunchyroll Expo.

For more on the company’s growth, new partnerships, and the Anime Awards, we spoke with Crunchyroll Founder and GM, Kun Gao:

Found Remote: Crunchyroll recently reached one million paid subscribers. What are your plans to attract the next million?

Kun Gao: We’re continuing to grow our unparalleled library of anime, and engaging with fans in even more ways — both online and offline.

For over 10 years, Crunchyroll has championed the medium of anime and the fans who have built a community around it. Crunchyroll Expo and other in-person engagements like Crunchyroll Movie Night are the ultimate way to celebrate and grow our shared passion for anime.

This summer we held our first-ever Crunchyroll Expo, which drew over 16,000 attendees with 35,000 in turnstile attendance over three days — a remarkable turnout for a first-year convention. With over one million subscribers already on our paid video service, our growth and extension into new categories is a testament to the size and passion of the anime audience.

FR: With so much content out there, how do you help build a new generation of anime lovers?

Gao: For over ten years we’ve been at the forefront of providing premium content to a passionate community.

We know that there is endless content available. At Crunchyroll, we prioritize super serving our community in every possible way. By super-serving our viewers and extending the anime experience beyond online, we provide opportunities for both casual and core fans to deepen their interest. With nationwide film screenings, active fan forums, and even our own convention Crunchyroll Expo, we are committed to building a dedicated community around a shared passion. We’re proud that Crunchyroll offers fans multiple outlets to express themselves and serves as the ultimate destination for fans to come together around their love for anime.

FR: You recently formed a partnership with NBCUniversal Entertainment Japan (NUEJ) to develop original content. Why should fans be excited for this?

Gao: Crunchyroll has been an international distribution partner for NUEJ for years, bringing series produced in Japan to fans around the world. Through our long-standing relationship, we’ve provided access to some of anime’s biggest series to date, including Berserk and Drifters.

Now we’re coming together to create new anime titles for the global anime community. We’re working to produce a range of titles based on existing IP as well as entirely new projects that will make anime even more accessible to a global audience. This partnership is great news for fans: by collaborating and bringing creators together from entire globe, we can bring even more high-quality content to the anime community.

FR: What are some of the major differences between how paid subscribers consume content versus viewers watching content via the free, ad-supported version?

Gao: Having free, ad-supported content is important to us as we continue to bring great shows to new audiences who may be watching a show for the first time.

We’ve built Crunchyroll to be everything to someone, not something for everyone. As such, our subscriber base of 1M+ consume Crunchyroll not just for the content, but to be a part of this amazing community and to share the anime experience together.

FR: What are some of your takeaways from the first Anime Awards? What will you apply for the 2017 version?

Gao: With the Anime Awards we reaffirmed what we always believed to be true—that anime is a beautiful and vast medium with so much world-class talent involved that deserves to be recognized. Our subscribers clearly felt the same way, and turned out in droves to cast their votes for the year’s best in all things anime. Much like Hollywood has the Oscars to honor film as a broad storytelling platform, we put together the Anime Awards to highlight anime and its many genres. We couldn’t be happier to facilitate a celebration of the past year’s most beloved titles.

We’re in the midst of planning for the next Anime Awards — we look forward to seeing which title can follow Yuri!!! On ICE as Anime of the Year!


Adam Flomenbaum

The new Found Remote