The Sony-owned, international streaming conglomerate Funimation Global Group announced last night that Australia and New Zealand’s primary anime streaming service, AnimeLab, will “retire” this December as the platform dissolves into FunimationNow, the brand’s global streaming service.
The news is not surprising. In June, Funimation confirmed that AnimeLab would begin rebranding efforts that would see the end of the service. Now that the process is coming to an end, AnimeLab subscriptions will be transferred to Funimation. Similarly, it appears AnimeLab employees will remain on as Funimation’s ANZ team.
The future of anime
Originally developed by a small team at Madman Anime Group (the Japanese entertainment subsidiary of Australian and New Zealand distribution company Madman Entertainment), AnimeLab launched in 2014 as a beta program. With an archive of popular titles on streaming and simulcasts of new releases, the platform eventually launched a premium service in 2015. AnimeLab brought titles like Cowboy Bebop and Code Geass — and even Adult Swim — to the ANZ market, and by 2018 the service had over one million subscribers.
Madman Anime Group was acquired by Sony’s anime production company Aniplex in 2019. With their previous acquisitions of the US-based Funimation and French-owned Wakanim, Aniplex reorganized the Australian service under Funimation Global Group in 2020.
The first step in Funimation’s move to terminate AnimeLab was combining the platform with FunimationNow. In March of 2020, FunimationNow ceased operating in Australia and New Zealand, moving onto AnimeLab’s platform. While AnimeLab seemed to grow from the consolidation, the shoe dropped with the rebranding announcement in June. As the process comes to an end in December, AnimeLab will become the first victim of Sony’s monopoly on the anime industry.
As fans lament the loss of AnimeLab’s user experience, Funimation is calling this “a new era of anime,” proclaiming “the future is more anime.” And while we certainly are in a new era of anime, that future looks like more anime from fewer studios, licensors, and distributors. The future is one subscription — and one corporation deciding where and how we watch anime.