Crunchyroll ends free streaming for new and continuing series

Crunchyroll will no longer offer ad-supported free streaming for newly released episodes, the anime streaming service announced in an update on its site (via Gizmodo). Viewers who want to watch episodes of new or continuing series will need to upgrade to one of Crunchyroll’s premium plans, which start at $7.99/month.

Users didn’t need a subscription to watch simulcast titles before the change, but there was a trade-off: Crunchyroll would delay the release of new episodes by a week for free users, while subscribers could watch an hour after their premiere in Japan. This is something that I (and many other people using Crunchyroll for free) happily handled as long as I was able to watch the new episodes.

But now, Crunchyroll prohibits free users from watching delayed simulcasts altogether. The service’s policy is expected to go into effect this spring, as Crunchyroll plans to give users access to a “seasonal sampler,” or select simulcasts debuting in spring 2022, including Spy x Family, A couple of cuckoo clocks, Tomodachi Game, and others. Crunchyroll will offer the first three episodes of each show for free in the sampler one week after their premiere until May 31. Any viewing beyond the first few episodes or access to Crunchyroll’s full simulcast lineup will require a subscription. Crunchyroll says all users can still watch episodes previously added to the platform for free.

It’s unclear if Crunchyroll will continue to offer seasonal samplers beyond Spring 2022, or when episodes of this season’s lineup will be available for free viewing in the future. The edge contacted Crunchyroll with a request for comment but did not immediately respond.

Sony, which also owns Funimation, acquired Crunchyroll last year in a deal valued at $1.175 billion, but the service only recently started making major changes. Earlier this month, Crunchyroll announced that it would inherit Funimation’s anime library in a bid to gradually merge the two services. Although Crunchyroll claims that it will “continue to offer free content in the future”, the removal of free delayed simulcasts is a bit of a blow to fans who have been using the service for free for years, and also raises the question whether Crunchyroll decides to lock other content behind a subscription.

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