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IDW: Publishing sales down 2.3%, but revenue is up in 2016

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IDW is the only publicly held comics publishing company whose financials can be directly read. (DC and Marvel are buried deep in their corporate owners’ filings.) And while it can’t stand in as a symbol of every comics publisher, its wide diversification into merchandise and production do give a good overview of how well that’s done. As you can see from this overview revenue went up from $35.64M in 2012 to $65.27M in 2016 – a pretty strong four year growth trend, nearly doubling, so whatever they are dong is working.

IDW Media Holdings, as it’s known on the old ticker, just released their 2016 end of year report, and you can read the whole thing below if you want, but Jim Milliot has a more succinct write-up, Basically the production end of IDW, with Wynonna Earp and Dirk Gently, did very well, and revenue overall was up 32.2% in the fiscal year ended October 31. Wynonna Earp was not only renewed, SyFy upped their episode order from to 12, up from 10 episodes!

But publishing was down 2.3% with revenue at $27.9 million. Not a huge drop, but a bit more than what we’ve been seeing in the DM overall.

In its filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, IDW attributed the dip in publishing revenue to general softness in the comic book publishing industry, fewer blockbuster titles, timing of when new titles were released, and competitive pressure from the major publishers.

The company reported that its publishing group’s direct and non-direct publishing revenue decreased by $455,000 in the year, other publishing revenue fell $1.2 million—principally due to the timing of IDW’s publication of specialty books—and digital revenue dropped $210,000. The declines were offset by growth in licensing revenue of $1.1 million, an increase in games revenue of $383,000, and a net decrease in other revenue categories of $231,000, the company said.


The end of the year was up though, with sales rising to $9.4 – the March trilogy and the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book led the way.

I wouldn’t say that IDW’s publishing declines sound the alarm for the end of the industry, but it’s notable. Especially notable is the $210,000 decline in digital comics sales. Ebooks sales are dismal right now, and it wouldn’t be hard to extrapolate that digital sales aren’t on the rise either. This filing is the first concrete evidence we have of just that.

It’s also worth pointing out that the “betting on yourself” tactics IDW took in regard to TV production has paid off handsomely. By putting more skin in the game andbecoming actual co-producers, they get much more of the backend than the often very low (like 4 figures) option and licensing money that makes up most TV deals.

It helps, of course, that there’s a screaming need for more and more and more TV right now, as networks, streaming services and VOD channels explode. A contraction may be coming, but IDW’s move here was very well timed.

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