Funimation’s solution for wiping out digital libraries could be good, if it works

The president of Crunchyroll, Rahul Purini, announced that the company is working to compensate customers who will lose their digital libraries in the upcoming Funimation / Crunchyroll merger on April 2nd. 

“[We] are working really hard directly with each [customer] to ensure that they have an appropriate value for what they got in the digital copy initially,” Purini tells Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel during this week’s Decoder podcast. “As people reach out to us through customer service, we are responding and handling each of those requests as they prefer.”

When asked what “appropriate value” meant, Purini said, “So it could be that they get access to a digital copy on any of the existing other services where they might be able to access it. It could be a discount access to our subscription service so they can get access to the same shows through our subscription service.”

These options haven’t been formally announced or detailed, and Purini went on to say that it was something Crunchyroll customers are currently taking advantage of. My attempts to secure the “appropriate value” for some digital copies have, so far, been unsuccessful.

The original Funimation offer allowed customers who purchased Funimation disks to redeem a code for a digital copy accessible via a digital rights locker similar to Movies Anywhere. In 2017, Sony acquired Funimation for $148 million. That purchase was followed by its $1.175 billion acquisition of Crunchyroll from AT&T, which was completed in 2021. With the two anime streaming services under one owner, consolidation was the next step.

The merger came with the news that the Funimation streaming service would be shutting down, taking users’ digital copy libraries with it despite Funimation’s website still promising digital copies would be available to stream “forever” (subject, of course, to a terms of use agreement that most folks don’t read).

When asked on Decoder why customers were going to lose their digital libraries, Purini had a clear answer: “As we look at usage of that and the number of people that were redeeming those and using them, it was just not a feature that was available in Crunchyroll and isn’t in our roadmap.”

He went on to assure Decoder listeners that Crunchyroll had a solution in place for customers losing their libraries. “I will say these are customers that we value a lot and are working really hard directly with each one of them to ensure that they have an appropriate value for what they got in the digital copy initially.”

But in practice, Crunchyroll’s policy seems inconsistent and difficult to take advantage of.

I opened a customer service ticket with Funimation expressing concern that my digital copies were going away in the coming sunset and asking what, if anything, the company would do about it. I received two emails that were essentially the same boilerplate customer service response apologizing for the inconvenience but not providing any kind of solution to my issue.

The Funimation account I used to test this was a free account that had a digital copy of The Vision of Escaflowne in its library, and I was also able to add a digital copy of Steins;Gate. In my most recent communication with Funimation customer service, I explained that because I have a free account, I will no longer be able to watch Steins;Gate digitally since that show requires a premium subscription. Additionally, The Vision of Escaflowne is not a title currently available on Crunchyroll, so unless the show is transported over when Funimation sunsets, I’d lose digital access to that as well. 

I asked if Crunchyroll would at least be willing to comp me a premium subscription so I could continue to watch Steins;Gate — something Purini said the company was actively doing for customers who ask. As of publication, Crunchyroll customer service has not responded.

The Verge reached out to Crunchyroll public relations to clarify how exactly the company was working with its customers to provide an “appropriate value” for their digital libraries and if this was something it is actively doing right now or something to come in the future. We asked if it planned on communicating this to its customers, if there were any restrictions customers needed to be aware of before pursuing this, and how long this would be on offer.

Brian Eley, vice president of communications, responded in an email writing, “Funimation users who have questions about digital copies can contact Funimation here. A Funimation account associated with a digital copy redemption is required for verification.”

As frustrating as this was, this isn’t the first time Sony customers have had their digital purchases put in jeopardy. In December, PlayStation issued permanent suspensions to users from its PlayStation Network, cutting them off from their digital purchases before restoring access to those affected without offering any explanation for the bans. That same month, it also announced that it would remove a host of Discovery shows from users’ libraries due to expiring content licensing arrangements before reversing that decision. Hopefully, Crunchyroll’s handling of its users’ digital libraries will follow suit.

By 111 Tech

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