In the days immediately after it was revealed Funimation’s parent, Sony, bought AT&T’s Crunchyroll, the Japanese conglomerate as well as their two anime streaming service brands didn’t celebrate the announcement with a lot of fanfare or information. But changes were surely on the horizon, as it wouldn’t make any sense — financial or otherwise — for Funimation and Crunchyroll to remain completely separate.
Now, we get the first major bit of news, and it’s a completely expected one: HIDIVE is leaving VRV.
VRV combines several streaming platforms into one package and costs about $10 a month. Over the years, many services have come and gone, including DramaFever, Nerdist, Geek & Sundry, NickSplat, and Boomerang. HIDIVE was added to VRV in late 2018, after Crunchyroll and Funimation had been heading their separate ways after AT&T took ownership of the former and Sony acquired the latter.
While the switch was rather sudden, joining VRV was a practical move for HIDIVE. Unlike its competitors, HIDIVE isn’t backed by a major corporation, and that’s a primary reason Japan’s Cool Japan Fund has invested in the service.
Of course, if Crunchyroll and Funimation’s partnership dissolving was the catalyst for HIDIVE’s joining VRV, the opposite was surely going to be true, especially once VRV was confirmed to be part of the Crunchyroll sale.
So HIDIVE’s final day on VRV will be September 30th.
However, one piece of news that didn’t accompany this announcement: whether Funimation is rejoining VRV. Perhaps due to contracts with HIDIVE, VRV can’t announce Funimation’s arrival until October 1st. But as of right now, with no current replacement lined up, VRV’s selection is rather slim compared to its heyday. Plus, there is still a possibility other channels may leave too. Rooster Teeth, for instance, is still owned by AT&T, so who knows what they plan on doing with Rooster Teeth. The company was reportedly looking to sell Rooster Teeth earlier this year, which is hardly surprising considering AT&T has or is letting go of bigger names in their portfolio even outside of the Crunchyroll brand.
Even if AT&T doesn’t find a buyer, it’s obvious they’re not going to sink much money into it, which means the Rooster Teeth platform is going to eventually plateau in content, and that devalues VRV as a whole. However, even if VRV was just Crunchyroll and Funimation, that would still be cheaper than buying them separately, but it would still look like a shell of its former self.
Old VRV around 2018
So right now, Sony is still at a crossroads with VRV. They can keep the brand and make it how anime fans can enjoy both Crunchyroll and Funimation content in one service, or they can eliminate it and focus on having accounts connected in another way like merging accounts. It does seem a bit silly for Sony to have to worry about three video players and apps (Crunchyroll, Funimation, and VRV) especially since VRV is limited to just the US, but a third connected service also makes it so that subscribers to both will not need two apps or the companies to set up ways for accounts on one platform to cross-reference the other and deal with server miscommunications, differing emails, and other potential tech glitches and compatibility arrangements.
Judging from reactions on social media, plenty of people seem to be planning on ending their subscription with VRV, and I’m sure a large number of those who are sticking with it are only going to do so for a month or so to see if Funimation gets added. So if there’s no announcement in early October about Funimation joining VRV, then the service is probably officially on its deathbed.
But HIDIVE’s future continues to be on shaky ground. All streaming services are drawing lines in the sand with their own exclusives, and the anime field is no different. But larger media conglomerates like CBSViacom are struggling with their streaming services against the leaders like Netflix and Disney+, so it’s no surprise HIDIVE is facing an uncertain future without a company with a deep pocketbook behind it. However, the company says their partnership with VRV is ending “to focus on its owned and operated platforms”. Which they’re going to have to do like by making sure they have apps on all devices.
If Funimation does rejoin VRV, the cost to have two anime services on VRV plus the third one will currently be $1 less per month versus when Funimation was separate (and even more with a yearly plan), but it’s also hard to argue Funimation’s catalog has bigger names than HIDIVE’s. I haven’t seen a lot of reactions on social media of VRV subscribers rushing to establish a HIDIVE account. That’s not a good indication for HIDIVE’s long-term success without some dramatic developments.
For now, VRV subscribers will likely want to marathon any HIDIVE titles over the next two weeks (and perhaps work on non-Crunchyroll stuff after that), and they should also mark on their calendars their next renewal date in case VRV has no further content additions. For the vast majority of watchers, VRV’s other offerings and benefits aren’t worth the added cost over a Crunchyroll Premium membership. Even for those who prefer VRV, even for about the same price as Crunchyroll, it just might be better going with a subscription on a service you know is going to be kept updated versus one that may languish on the vine.