Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

February 24, 2011

United Media Leaves Syndication; To Outsource To Universal

Seismic news, I think best covered so far by Michael Cavna. For you comic book fans, this is basically a company like Marvel outsourcing all of its comic books to DC. United Media is one of the giant businesses in the history of comics, developing in the first part of this century as the syndicated arm of the Scripps paper. Its present clients number about 150 in all categories, including off the top of my head so forgive me if I get something wrong Get Fuzzy, Marmaduke, Luann, 9 Chickweed Lane and Rose Is Rose. I also believe they still have a small editorial cartoonist group, too, including Rob Rogers.

The deal is believed to be completed by June 1, and has as its genesis the transforming fortunes of the Scripps-Howard company and where that company seems to want to place its emphasis. They previously sold the enormously profitable licensing business United Media Licensing for what some felt was not exactly a premium price -- $175 million for a group of licensing arrangements that included a relationship to Peanuts.

I can't imagine this will have an immediate effect on the popular strips in the group; then again, as far as I know, everything could be on the table -- if not immediately, then certainly over time. I would imagine that Universal will be able to scale up to handle any number of additional, but the question is whether they're as willing to scale up for Alley Oop as they are for Pearls Before Swine.

My first thought is that this will have greater, long-term effects on the industry, just in terms of there being a severe reduction in the number of major players in that market, and what an additional major player means in terms of options for cartoonists and simply providing solutions and strategies to various issues facing that form of comics expression. In other words, we now have one less major player with the potential to arrive at a solution for that industry's long-time issues with on-line distribution in addition to one less place for cartoonist to send their work.
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink

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