Attack on Antitrust: Preventing A Grim Future for Anime Streaming

By Michael L. Cederblom (Brooklyn Law School)

Antitrust policy and enforcement in the United States since the 1960s has been a story of apathy and neglect. As competition concerns started to reclaim the spotlight in the legal world, the discussion became squarely focused on big tech (Amazon’s domination of digital retail markets, Google’s domination of online search, and Facebook’s domination of social media). However, numerous other markets are suffering due to our torpid policies. The visionaries of the Biden administration are faced with a pressing question: how do we unwind the damage already caused by the last few decades of detrimental concentration? After all, the best way to stop the damage of Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram would have been to block the merger in the first place.

For rising industries, it is not too late to prevent harm to competition. The anime streaming industry in the United States is growing rapidly in size and importance but faces a grim future marred by consolidation. This trend is exemplified by Funimation Global Group’s (a Sony Pictures Entertainment subsidiary) recent $1 billion acquisition of Crunchyroll. Repeated warnings of the dangers of concentrated markets have largely fallen on deaf ears. This essay acts as a renewed carrion call and a call to action for antitrust authorities: merger challenges must not be neglected in the anime streaming industry like it was in social media and online search. As anime continues to grow exponentially into a mainstream form of entertainment, accurately defining product markets and structuring markets through proper enforcement to promote fair competition can protect the competitive integrity of future markets to the benefit of both consumers and labor.

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