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Crunchyroll’s million-subscriber milestone proves anime streaming isn’t just niche

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One million paid users can’t be wrong

Yuri On Ice is one of several available anime that makes Crunchyroll worth it for subscribers.
TV Asahi

Few anime-exclusive streaming services are as well-known or widely used as Crunchyroll. The popular platform recently celebrated its one millionth paid subscriber, which may seem small when compared to Netflix or Hulu. For a streaming site that predominantly hosts anime and makes the bulk of its content available to users for free, however, getting one million fans to pay for subscriptions is a big deal.

“Crunchyroll achieved record growth in 2016, charting a 36 percent increase in paid subscribers in the last 12 months,” the company announced in a press release. Overall, more than 20 million users are now registered to use the site.

In January 2016, Crunchyroll reportedly had more than 750,000 paid members; that was a big change over November 2014, when it was said to have 400,000 subscribers. Premium memberships cost between $7 and $12 monthly, and they give users full access to the service’s anime, drama and manga library, as well as early access to episodes that just aired in Japan. Premium subscribers also get to watch content ad-free and get other exclusive perks.

Looking at the company’s biggest moves in 2016, including the success of shows like Yuri On Ice, addition of classics like Cowboy Bebop and partnership with licensing giant Funimation, the big jump in members isn’t surprising. It’s instead indicative of anime’s enduring international popularity — and fans’ appreciation of its increased accessibility.

Like most media, anime can be found online in spades and at no-cost. Even on Crunchyroll, viewers can check out plenty of content for free. But just as nearly 100 million people still find reason to pay for Netflix despite the preponderance of free media, Crunchyroll’s success is proving that anime fans are willing to pay for convenience, quality and perks.

Although Crunchyroll is more than 10 years old now, most anime fans can relate to the experience of torrenting or illegally streaming fan-subtitled episodes of their favorite shows if they want to watch them right after they first air in Japan. Anime streaming services eliminate that need with simulcasts and a wide array of content.

They also actively indulge and celebrate fandom, further breeding a culture that encourages loyalty. Crunchyroll’s forums are bustling, and its social media accounts have high fan engagement. Crunchyroll commercials can be seen on mainstream TV networks, and reps for the platform are regularly found at fan expos. The service’s parent company even announced plans to launch a Crunchyroll-branded anime convention, which will take place this August in Santa Clara, California.

Those are all major reasons why Crunchyroll is now among the top 10 biggest over-the-top video services nationwide, ranking above powerhouse networks like Showtime and CBS’ streaming platforms. For something understood to be a niche for nerds, anime continues to prove that it’s much bigger than many take the time to recognize.