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Chernin buys anime site Crunchyroll to expand online video assets

Peter Chernin, CEO of The Chernin Group, arrives for lunch at the annual Allen and Co. conference at the Sun Valley, Idaho Resort July 10, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Ronald Grover

(Reuters) - The Chernin Group, former News Corp president Peter Chernin's holding company, said on Monday it had acquired majority control of Japanese anime streaming service Crunchyroll, expanding holdings that include stakes in online video company Fullscreen and mobile entertainment network Scopely.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Crunchyroll has a free, ad-supported service and a subscription service that the Cherin group says has subscribers in more than 160 countries. The company delivers content from Japanese studios and broadcasters to viewers outside of Japan on desktops, mobile phones and other devices.

No price was announced for the acquisition, but a person with knowledge of the transaction said it was close to $100 million. The Chernin Group said it will maintain majority control although Crunchyroll management and existing investor TV Tokyo will maintain a "significant" stake.

"Our plan is to continue to grow the anime vertical as well as launch new channels in different genres," Chernin said in the statement.

The Chernin Group, which has financial backing from Providence Equity Partners and Qatar Holdings, produces films and TV shows. Earlier this year, it made a bid to buy the Hulu online video site, owned by Twenty-First Century Fox, the Walt Disney Co, and Comcast.

(Reporting by Ronald Grover; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)