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Iconix, Schulz family buy Peanuts for $175M

Iconix Brand Group Inc. and the Charles M. Schulz family has bought the rights to the Peanuts comic strip and other assets from United Features Syndicate and E.W. Scripps Co for $175 Million. The family will have a 20% share of the rights.

According the a Reuters story, Iconix projects a $75 million annual royalty revenue. The Schulz family also has an existing revenue sharing deal for the Peanuts brand that is separate from its partnership.

Community Comments

#1 patric lewandowski
April/27/2010
@ 9:50 am

only 20%???? what the heck? why wouldn’t they want more? could they not afford it? i have trouble believing that.

weirdly enough, didn’t scott kurtz predict something like this happening a few months back?

#2 Rob T
April/27/2010
@ 10:24 am

I read the article and it says Iconix also bought the rights to Dilbert. Whoa!

#3 Jim Thomas
April/27/2010
@ 11:11 am

Ok, so United has a fist full of cash now and if they stay in the comic syndicate market, need a couple new big hitters, right?

They either have a new master plan of how to market cartoonists for profit or they are throwing in their hats and getting out with what they can. Is there any other explanation for this?

#4 Jim Thomas
April/27/2010
@ 11:12 am

ha. oh mixed metaphors. Throwing in the towel is quitting, hat is joining.

So are they throwing in the towel then? (quitting)

#5 Jason Hackett
April/27/2010
@ 11:22 am

Not knowing the ins and outs of the syndicate business, here’s my main question: With $2 billion in retail sales and 25 percent margins, why would Scripps want to unload the properties? Is it just that they don’t want to be in that market space anymore? Peanuts has obvious value: Is it just too “niche” for Scripps to be bothered with?
Something doesn’t add up. …

#6 Mike McKeenan
April/27/2010
@ 11:29 am

Where did you see 25% margins?

$2 billion in sales doesn’t equal $2 billion in profit or even top-line revenue to United.

They were paid a percentage of those sales; which could be in the single digits and after paying the royalties to the Schulz estate, there might not be much left.

#7 Tony Piro
April/27/2010
@ 11:31 am

Wow, now that UMS has sold away 95% of it’s business (actually more because this includes Dilbert and Fancy Nancy), what happens to all the other comic properties that it owns?

Yard sale anyone?

#8 Rob T
April/27/2010
@ 11:32 am

There’s a difference between UMS and UFS. UFS sold the rights but they may continue to be licensed via UMS.

#9 Jason Hackett
April/27/2010
@ 11:35 am

Near the end of the story linked above:

“About two-thirds of Peanuts sales come from outside the U.S. Margins on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the business will be as much as 25 percent, Iconix said.”

Granted, I left out the interest, taxes, etc., and the “as much as,” but the question still stands.

#10 Jason Hackett
April/27/2010
@ 11:37 am

With regard to the UMS and UFS question, Comic Riffs (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/comic-riffs/) says this:

“As for the syndication side of things, the release makes clear: ‘Scripps still owns United Media’s syndication operation and will continue to syndicate comic strips and editorial features that are developed and marketed worldwide through United Feature Syndicate and Newspaper Enterprise Association.'”

#11 Tony Piro
April/27/2010
@ 11:42 am

I see, my bad. Thanks Rob and Jason.

But isn’t most of the money from licensing? How much money is really left in syndication?

#12 Mike McKeenan
April/27/2010
@ 11:43 am

Thanks.

“Will be” I think is the operative phrase. You’d be right to ask why if they were currently getting 25% margins.

They (Iconix) may already be in a lot of those markets and be able to wrench away control from current licensees to improve the margins.

Also, hard to make a judgment without knowing what UM used to pay the Schulz Estate in royalties vs. the new equity arrangement with iconix.

#13 Rob T
April/27/2010
@ 11:45 am

Although now if Iconix decides to do self syndication or sign a contract with another syndicate when their current contract expires (if it ever does), UMS is toast.

#14 Rob T
April/27/2010
@ 11:47 am

Ugh… not syndication that’s UFS, UMS does licensing…

#15 Darryl Heine
April/27/2010
@ 4:00 pm

But no plans to do new Peanuts episodes with a new artist since it has been a decade since the last new Peanuts strip and a decade since Charles Schulz died?

#16 Patrick Scullin
April/28/2010
@ 10:24 am

I’m not sure what it means but I hope in the end it’s good for the Schultz family.

#17 Robert Gidley
April/28/2010
@ 4:51 pm

@Darryl,

No, Sparky made it very, very clear that he didn’t want a zombie strip. No new Peanuts.

Even the licensing folks don’t allow new drawings of Peanuts characters. If you use them in your advertising, you have to use a drawing that Sparky made.

#18 Bob Weber Jr.
April/28/2010
@ 5:09 pm

@Robert,
True, no zombie strip, but there has been licensing art created by cartoonists other than Sparky over the years. A wonderful cartoonist and friend of mine tried out for an account assignment about 25 years ago. The job went to someone else.
I don’t know how often this was done, but it did happen.
Then there is the Peanuts comic books published in the 1950s and early 1960s. Sparky drew the first book. After that Jim Sasseville drew some and Dale Hale took over for the rest.

#19 Dave Stephens
April/28/2010
@ 5:22 pm

20% looks fantastic to me – most of us non-billionaires see only 5-8% royalties on average…

#20 Pat Sandy
April/29/2010
@ 3:51 pm

I would much rather ‘reruns’ of a strip as iconic as Peanuts than have an endless ‘team’ of creators banging out new strips. Thank God Schulz made sure no one would do that. As for the ‘zombie’ strips populating the newspapers, I can only wonder what it would be like if TV operated like the syndicates… “I Love Lucy” would still be in production (in it’s 60th season…lol) and we would be on our 15th “Lucy” doing yet another riff on the classic “Vitameatamegamin” episode…

#21 J Willis
May/2/2010
@ 1:47 am

Where’s Dilbert in all of this mess?

#22 Mike Peterson
May/2/2010
@ 5:11 am

“I can only wonder what it would be like if TV operated like the syndicates? ?I Love Lucy? would still be in production (in it?s 60th season?lol) and we would be on our 15th ?Lucy? doing yet another riff on the classic ?Vitameatamegamin? episode?”

Well, first of all, American TV is notorious for keeping lame stuff around long after it has passed its creative expiration date.

That said, the difference is that when NBC is showing “Law & Order: Tired Derivative Division,” that’s the only thing NBC is showing and the ratings make it clear how the show is doing. We’ve seen examples of shows that had a loyal following being canceled because they had no marketable ratings — a flood of letters may come from those loyal followers, but the network execs have the ratings book in their hands and can see that those impassioned viewers don’t represent marketing value. Think “Wonderfalls” or “My So-Called Life.”

By contrast, nobody really knows how much quality audience any specific feature of a newspaper pulls in because content is undifferentiated. Even on the rare occasions that something jolts circulation — say the addition of a new sports columnist or a change in when the TV section is inserted — you don’t know what demographic has come or gone. All you see are raw numbers, and to go deeper by commissioning a real market survey is very expensive and time-consuming.

And Lucille Ball did try new shows after “I Love Lucy” ended, and the loveable screwball redhead was pretty unwatchable. IIRC, the sitcom lasted a couple of years and the variety show sank like a stone.

TV ratings aren’t perfect, but they sure beat putting your fate in the hands of editors who don’t understand marketing, demographics or business.

#23 Pat Sandy
May/3/2010
@ 8:31 am

Mike – well put, my friend. However, I stand by my point.

“Well, first of all, American TV is notorious for keeping lame stuff around long after it has passed its creative expiration date.”

Very true, but to my point, not 50-60 years, like a number of strips still populating the papers.

TV shows do indeed have a trail that can be specifically tracked, i.e., viewers, Nielsons, advertising etc…newspapers simply don’t have anything ‘trackable’ other than advertising revenue, sold by the column inch. That’s it.

To elaborate on your point, it would be nice if comics had specific advertising/sponsors attached to each strip, (like TV shows) i.e., Today’s “Blondie” brought to you by Dial Soap! or Home Depot Presents “Hi and Lois”! and each reader of said strip was tracked, etc etc…Of course, newspapers would never do that, so it’s really quite moot.

Again, I stand by my basic point – which is to say, there’s nothing worse than creative atrophy…no matter what medium.

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